Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Personalism: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 18 with poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, Destiny

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 3 Judges 14 Ezekiel 18 Tobit 12

Daily Text: Ezekiel 18

The original understanding of responsibility was communal. That is, everyone participated in the community and children followed the behavior of their parents. The community was judged as one. But in exile this belief creates a crisis because what is happening there affects Jerusalem and what happens in Jerusalem affects the exiles, so “The parents eat sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge!” God responds with a “No more” edict. The community is still primary, but in the eyes of God sin and righteousness have their own reward. Individuals within the community make up its constituent parts, and will be judged individually, not collectively. Eichrodt terms this understanding as ‘personalism,’[503:241] and it must have aroused hope in Babylon and it must have aroused hope in Jerusalem as well.

Eichrodt recognizes that this does not have clearly in view the kingdom of God, but it does show “a deepened ethical understanding of the inward connection between all ethical decisions, and of how progress in the moral life can be made a real growth” [503:242]. The distinction made here by Ezekiel 18 is primarily pastoral rather than theological. In our own time we have moved to understand this as theology, each of us standing and falling on our own merits, but that is to lose sight of the community of God, the house of Israel of Ezekiel’s time, the church of our time. A kernel or an of corn may be described, but who ever heard of a field of corn with one kernel or one stalk? It would indeed, as a field of corn, be useless. So it is with the kingdom of God. Righteousness must be pursued individually, but it is supported by the community for the sake of the community. Sin, likewise, has its communal nature, but it may not be related at all to the behavior of parents or offspring. The upshot of this teaching is hope, hope for the present and hope for the future.

John Greenleaf Whittier

We shape ourselves the joy or fear
Of which the coming life is made,
And fill our future’s atmosphere
With sunshine or with shade.

The tissue of the life to be
We weave with colors all our own,
And in the field of destiny
We reap as we have sown.

Collect for the Day
Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
my staff of faith to walk upon,
my scrip of joy, immortal diet,
my bottle of salvation,
my gown of Glory, hope’s true gage
and thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.
[475:519 Sir Walter Raleigh]


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