Intimacy is truly intimacy when fruitfulness of some kind is intended and desired.
An intimate conversation is more than the exchange of good ideas and then a separation as if two billiard balls bumped into each other. Physical rape as well as psychological, and military rape, no matter the degree of proximity, intends violence and destruction. Marital intimacies are experienced for what they are and for the future. There may be a pregnancy, but if not there are other forms of fruitfulness which extend the intimacy into the future.
Prayer itself is an intimate time whether there are words, feelings or insights. The real fruit of prayer is not merely the time spent in prayer, but the prayerful time spent after; the “afterness” of intimacy is the fruitful result also desired and intended.
The prophet Ezekiel, as with most of the prophets, is pictured in our First Reading as being burdened, warned and comforted all at the same time. This reading is from early in the book of Ezekiel and he is getting his instructions concerning his being sent to speak to the rebellious nation of Israel.
God’s Holy people have been revolting against God’s being Lord of the nation. God is sending the prophet even though he will, most likely, not be heard. All the prophet is told to say is that he is speaking on behalf of the Lord God. God then says, “Well, at least they know that a prophet has been among them.” He has to do no signs and no harsh words of future punishments.
The remainder of this short chapter is the famous picture of Ezekiel’s seeing a vision of a book being lowered to him and he is asked to “eat the whole thing”. On the cover of the book are written three words of coming attractions, announcing suffering and grief. Ezekiel is beginning to get the whole picture and he has to swallow the Word, before he can deliver it.
Our Gospel story is a kind of home coming for Jesus. He and His disciples return to where He is known by His family relationships. Jesus does the religiously wrong thing though. He is teaching in the synagogue, on the Sabbath, but the town’s folk need to see His diplomas, His credentials for getting up there like that. “Who does he think he is!” That is the message, Jesus does know Who He is and He does what He knows Himself to be.
The listeners to Him think they know Him, because they know from where He comes, that is from right there among them. Jesus is from there and way beyond. He has come to be known as coming to every where from everywhere. They are amazed and “They took offense at Him”. They were relying on their knowledge and He was inviting them to go beyond what they did know into the relationship of faith to which He was inviting them.
Their lack of belief was the cause of His not being able to do the signs and mighty deeds they were seeking. The “honor” for which He was asking them was not based on locale or family ties, but on accepting Him as The One Who is Sent. He leaves the temple, but to add to their confusion, Jesus does heal a few by touching them, but departs as amazed at their lack of faith as they are amazed at His unpredictable behavior.
We have these two, Ezekiel and Jesus showing up just being who they are. Both know they are going to be resisted for just being who they are and how they do who they know themselves to be. There is a “Referent Personality” type which person mirrors what ever others wish them to be. They seem to intuit the personality-expectations of others and dance that tune. Very few of us “confront” well. We have workshops centered upon little ways to say the difficult things wrapped in positive sweetnesses. We gauge the receptability of the one whom we think needs help or correction. Often enough confrontation is a revelation of the confronter as well and this is the occasion for self-confrontation. Ouch!
When I entered the Jesuits there were C.P.A.’s —Certified Private Admonitors— and each week we had to take a walk or meet with one other person to reveal to each other their more public faults. We referred to that as “The Agony in the Garden.” There were the more important things like walking too quickly, loud talking, (when talking was aloud), talking when talking was not allowed, and other major areas of our fallen humanity. In later years I have been befronted with more significant issues, about which I have not forgotten and for which I am grateful.
Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Jesus all showed up, because they had all received well their persons and their missions. They did not care about what others were saying about them, because they knew what they, themselves, were saying about themselves. There have been many prophetic persons in my life, telling me, pushing me, slowing me down, building me up and often it took me time to hear, receive, take it to heart and so begin to show up with the more simple self which helps me offer others their good truths. Do they always accept what I offer? Do they often accept me? The more important question is whether I accept me. This is how Christian Spirituality works; not easy, but God does work through such as we.
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord, blessed is he who hopes in the Lord.” Ps. 34, 9
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