Rebuilding the House of God: Community and Temple

Mon, Nov 26th 2018 01:00 pm

In 587 BC, the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and many Israelites were exiled to Babylonia or they fled to Egypt. Just as the people were referred to as the "House of David," they were also considered the "House of God" - both the building and the community were in ruins. Eventually, the Persians, under Cyrus, defeated the Babylonians, and the Israelites in Babylonia were allowed to return to the environs of Jerusalem. The task of those returnees was to rebuild their lives, their economy and their society, as well as their religious practice and the Temple of their God.

Prophets who spoke the words of God to these people included Zechariah. The first nine chapters of the Old Testament book, Zechariah, contain words to the people as God encourages them to rebuild.  The opening verses, 1:1-6, find God telling the people that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple along with the exile were a punishment for abandoning the covenant with its demand for the worship of only Yahweh and for social justice within the community. The book of Job, however, counters the thought that suffering is a result of sin.   

Chapters 2 through 6 concern new leaders and a new Temple, chapters 7 and 8 contain oracles of hope for the people. In 1:3 God states: "Return to me and I will return to you." Then in Chapter 8 God promises to return (8:3) and, using covenantal language, says: "They will be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and justice" (8:8). Moreover, there will be a restoration of a productive, tranquil land of plenty (8:12).

The people on their part are called to respond, to "return to me," to live as the covenant community. "These then are the things you must do: Speak the truth to one another; judge with honesty and complete justice in your gates. Let none of you plot evil against another in your heart, nor love a false oath. For all these things I hate" (8:15-17). Previously, in 7:9-10, we heard God say, "Judge with true justice, and show kindness and compassion toward each other. Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the resident alien or the poor; do not plot evil against one another in your hearts."  

Rebuild your community, your lives of compassion and justice and I am with you. Then you will be a blessing among the nations. Many peoples and strong nations will know that I am indeed there with you. Finally, the words of 8:23 are at once a promise from God and a dream:

"In those days 10 people from nations of every language will take hold, yes, will take hold of the cloak of every Judahite and say, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'"

In these days of crises for our diocesan Catholic community, one can note that is it not the people themselves who are responsible for the situation. The overwhelming majority of our priests and people strive to live out their baptismal commitment to pursue holiness. In our case what needs to be rebuilt, to be reformed, are our structures of authority. We all need to work for this. Meanwhile, anything we can do to support a vibrant Catholic community, parish, diocesan, universal, a people of compassion, justice and mercy will insure that we will get through the crisis. Let us wish God's dream for ourselves, that people will say,

"Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."  

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