November 2023

‘Every living soul belongs to me’ (Ezekiel 18.4) NIV.

Ezekiel was carried off with all his compatriots into captivity in Babylon.  After five years by the banks of a river, he began to have visions and prophesies.  In his writing, all in the first person, he hears God calling from a great distance, in awesome majesty, above and beyond the human world.  All seeing, all knowing, Ezekiel’s depictions of God are clothed in fire and glory. 

Against this, in stark contrast, we are shown the people’s sin and the inevitability of their judgement; a central focus of Ezekiel’s ministry.  Another characteristic focus is that of personal accountability.  Every individual must answer for themselves, Ezekiel suggests, rather than claiming the influence of tradition or their cultural or local environments.  

Here, in Ezekiel 18, we see the other side of the ‘judgement coin’: the wonderful reassurance of God’s love for his people.  Whilst we are each individually accountable to Him, so God takes responsibility at a personal level for each of us.  He may appear at times, distant, majestic and awesome, but He is always relating to us, His people, in love.

When we consider the vastness of the world’s populations and the countless millions who have gone before us in history, it seems almost impossible to think alongside God that: ‘every living soul belongs to me’.  The soul as a concept may have fallen somewhat out of usage in our increasingly secular world, yet most of us still sense intuitively that within us is a spiritual – divine – part of our make-up as human beings.

Gerard Hughes, the Jesuit priest, in his book, God of Surprises, describes the soul as ‘the deepest, most sensitive part of myself, the point of unity in all that I am. The soul manifests itself in everything I experience, whether consciously or unconsciously.  All my longings and hopes, fears and anxieties, restlessness and ambition are expressions of my soul’.

This month’s Saying can help us to look deep into ourselves to discover our soul.  This inward journey is a vital part of our spiritual quest in this lifetime.  We need not become too introspective, but we do need – and can be healed by – taking time and space to make the journey inwards.  Time spent in contemplative prayer can afford us valuable opportunities to realise the meaning behind God’s words: ‘Every living soul belongs to me’.