Scripture: Lectionary 454: Zechariah 2:5-9.14-15. Jeremiah31:10.11-12.13.
Jesus predicts his suffering and death for a second time; again, his
disciples are afraid to ask him about this statement. They, like us, know
that suffering and death are part of the human condition, but we do not
like to talk about them for we realize that we too will die. We wonder why
this happens to our friends and sometimes we even question why God permits
this to happen to us. Why does God do this to me? This is a question you
and I hear often and maybe even express it to those who listen to us. We
tend to blame God when we do not find any answers that satisfy us.
We know of many others who have greater sufferings, trials and difficulties
than we do and sometimes this helps us to struggle with our lesser problems
about the limitations of our life. Some of these persons are models for us;
then there is also the example of the great sufferings of the saints both
present day saints and those from past centuries. They offer us hope and
consolation when we turn to them and consider what they have gone through
in their lives.
Jeremiah is cited and sung for our Psalm Response and our reflection. He
was a suffering servant of God who was nearly martyred by his own leaders
and made a fool by his people, yet he predicted the departure to Babylon
and also gave hope for an eventual return. We learn much about suffering
from him and how to handle it even while complaining to God in honest and
humble prayer. We listen to these words of Jeremiah in our reflection
today: “The Lord will guard us like a shepherd guarding his flock.” He
continues to explain this in a later verse: “I will turn their mourning
into joy. I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.”
Zechariah prophesies about the return and rebuilding of Jerusalem. He is
contemporaneous with our prophets and priest, Haggai and Ezra and Nehemiah.
We learn more about this restoration to Jerusalem and the joy and health of
its people. Zechariah is the eleventh of the “Minor Prophets” and uttered
his prophesies in 520-518 B.C. He gives words of consolation and hope to
those who are depressed and suffering after the return from the Exile and
who are dismayed at the slow process of rebuilding Jerusalem and its
environs (called the “Daughter of Zion”). He promotes truth and justice
over against ascetical fasting and preaches repentance. God will protect
the efforts at rebuilding Jerusalem like a wall of fire surrounding it and
its neighboring fields. Zion the former stronghold of David will rejoice
and dance with joy for their God and Savior will be within their midst.