Scripture and the Tortilla Package

14 Dec

I returned home from work this evening with enough time to prepare and to eat supper, and then to arrive in time for the Advent Penitential Service at the church nearby…or so I thought. I quickly realized that I was missing some items I needed for the meal, among them soft tortillas. In my haste before leaving for work, I hadn’t thoroughly made sure I had everything I needed to prepare dinner. Thus, I was in a mad rush to go out again, get the necessary supper fare, and return home to finish cooking. This type of story is familiar to many I’m sure.I thought that before receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation was an especially bad time for running around like a fool!

Anyway, I came back with a package of “organic” multigrain tortillas. I was fascinated by a Biblical verse, Ezekiel 4:9, that appeared on the package:

“And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself.”

I immediately thought of the literal meaning of this verse, but also that it might be used to emphasize the oneness of God’s people, despite differences between individuals or cultures. Christians are described for example as many members of the one body of Christ, each with different gifts contributing to a single purpose. (cf. Romans 12:3-8 ) In Ezekiel, I thought, the different grains all contribute to one unit- bread.

Later, I decided to look at Ezekiel 4:9 in its context, rather than as a single verse, so that I might come to a better reflection on it. I had hardly expected that this verse appears in a chapter prophesying a siege of Jerusalem. It wasn’t about interpersonal or intercultural relations at all, at least not on the surface.

Ezekiel wrote in a time of disaster for Israel, during the Babylonian Exile. In the sixth century B.C., the Israelites were driven from their homeland they had been promised by God (cf. Genesis 12:7). This made the Jewish people question God. They needed a prophet to set their sights on redemption and vindication, while not denying their suffering that had taken place and that was to come. Ezekiel wrote of visions and of dramatic encounters between himself and God. He used often disgusting symbolism, such as that of the bread being baked in human dung then eaten (cf. Ezekiel 4:12) to tell of the coming siege of Jerusalem by Israel’s enemies. This was to call to mind how God’s people had strayed from the Lord’s will for them. Yet eventually Israel’s enemies of the time, who were even more wicked than Israel, would in turn be driven out. God would return Jerusalem to the Israelites, and “reside among them forever”. (Ezekiel 43:9) This is in a sense a foretelling of the coming Messiah.

Going back to the revolting imagery of Ezekiel 4:12, it reminded me of another passage related to dung (not a good topic over a meal of tortillas)- St. Paul’s realization in Philippians 3:7-9:

“Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish*, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God based on faith.”

*”Rubbish” is actually translated from the Greek σκυβαλα, defined more accurately as “dung”.

To follow Christ, then, we must set aside some things dear to us that are non-conducive to following God’s will. This may entail regarding all of humanity, different though individuals are, as members of one body, or as grains in a multigrain piece of bread. Above all, though, we are to see our inherent shortcomings and selfishness as revolting, and distance ourselves from it as if it were dung. Certainly attempt not to mix the waste that is sin with the heavenly food that is Christ Himself offered for us in the Eucharist.

And it’s best to read Ezekiel 4:12 and other such passages long after ingesting your tortillas…

WRS

 

 

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