The Church commemorates the Prophet Ezekiel (born c. 622 BC) today. His name means “God will strengthen.” God’s strength will be explained by the prophet’s persistent and clear call for repentance, purity and holiness.
The Prophet is remembered on various dates among others:
- Latin Catholics 23 July
- Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox and some Lutherans on 21 July
- Armenian Apostolic Church on 28 August
- It must be noted that Ezekiel, though not named in the Islamic holy Book, is honored.
Ezekiel is said to have been a great teacher and that his lessons were about the renewal and reform of the whole nation through the renewal and reform of each person. But more than a great teacher he was born into a born into a priestly family, meaning that his family was a family of priests in the line of Levi. Ezekiel was a priest who offered sacrifice on behalf of others.
He is remembered for many important things but many will say they are drawn to the miracle he performed of the resuscitation of the dead found in Book of Ezekiel 37. Dry bones are reassembled and live again. An evident foretelling of the Lord’s own resurrection from the dead. But aside from brilliant miracles the prophet utterances of Ezekiel’s book speak of a vision of God’s glory (the heavens opening) and the restoration of that glory will happen in a dramatic way even though Jerusalem would fall, unbelief of the people in the one God would lead to their destruction (the Jews would understand the abandoned faith was akin to committing national suicide), and that God required the people to do penance for their wandering away from His truth, beauty and goodness.
There is a certainty in Ezekiel that’s often dismissed: redemption, wholeness, joy, prosperity, peace is given to those who are unconditionally loyal to the living of the teaching of God (also called, Torah). The only way a new kingdom, the New Jerusalem, a new flowering of the vineyard, would be built and the prosperity of the people renewed, if the people would be purified and the people to have a solid recognition that “The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48).
Therefore, the Prophet Ezekiel’s addition to the Christian liturgical calendar is poignant because the message he proposes to the Jews is the same for us today who follow Jesus Christ: he calls all of us to conversion (a turning away from sin and facing the Holy Face of God, cf. chapter 18); a new and renewed homeland requires a new and robust worship of the Almighty One. Once that happens, a new leader will emerge in the person of King David, and he will lead us to salvation. A Christian can’t but see the coming of the Messiah in what is spoken of by the Prophet. That is, Ezekiel identifies that some are chosen and anointed for a rebuilding of the Kingdom (see chapter 9).
Customarily, Jews would not read and interpret the Book of Ezekiel until they reached the age of 50 because of the need for personal maturity.
Christians will note that in the Book of Revelation, Saint John quotes the Prophet and some of his utterances foretell the coming of the Savior.
From Ezekiel we get the Tau cross most often now identified with the Franciscans. Every baptized Christian is marked by the cross, the Tau. Each person is called be a faithful, responsible person in following Christ in His Church.