Scripture: Lectionary # 32: II Chronicles 36:14-17.19-23. Psalm 137:1-2.3.4-5.6. Ephesians 2:4-10. John 3:14-21
Often the Scriptures present shadows which are contrasted with the reality they display in silhouette fashion. Our liturgical texts have a strong element of contrast within them that act like shadows of the spiritual message that is communicated. Our season of Lent is bathed in the sunlight of this spring season and it, too, is a contrast with shadows and maybe with its shadow side of penance and fasting.
The reading from II Chronicles joined with the lamentation of Psalm 137 gives us the contrasts of turning from sin to reconciliation and an experience of grace given mercifully by God to God’s people Israel. II Chronicles is rough on kings-especially those that were from the Northern Kingdom, but also is tough on those kings of Judah who had sinned against God by follow false gods. The covenant was broken and the protection of God took on the force of strong punishment in an exile to Babylon.
The psalm shows us the great sadness the people of God undergo because of their being in a captured state in a foreign and war-like land. How could they ever sing a song of their own in such a land? Their captives wanted to hear songs from them. Instead they hang up their harps on the trees planted near the rivers of Babylon. The city of Babylon is noted for its rivers: the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Chebar. There were also numerous canals from these rivers. Upon being asked in a taunting and inane manner to sing about Zion (Jerusalem, Judah), the psalmist singer hangs up his harp on a tree and would rather have his right hand be forgotten so that he cannot play the harp. His tongue would be paralyzed and muted so that he could not sing a song in an unholy land filled with scoffers and taunters.
We are led to meditate on these realities of an exiled populace and still see signs of hope in the people who wait seventy years for this to happen, just as Jeremiah had prophesied. God is working through all this pain and suffering in the history of his people which is a history of salvation. Cyrus is the messianic like figure who proclaims that the people may return to Judah and rebuild their Temple on Mount Zion. We are led to ponder over this mysterious hand of God working throughout all of history even in its shadowy dimensions.
Jesus, the Word of God, breaks through with a clarion announcement: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:14).