Father Steve Grunow shares his homily for today's readings. Thousands of years ago the Israelites looked over their city, ruined by the Babylonian empire, and vowed to pick up the pieces. Today the work continues, not with the construction of a physical place, but for the Kingdom of God, using our trust, our deeds and our willingness to respond to Christ's call.
Last week the Church presented scriptures from Ezra and Haggai, and these texts presented Israel’s return to their ancestral lands after decades spent languishing as a persecuted minority in Babylon.
Remember, in the year 587 BC, the armies of the Babylonian empire conquered the kingdom of Judah and laid waste to the city of Jerusalem, destroying the city and the temple. The surviving inhabitants were taken as captives to Babylon.
Israel would return from exile after the Babylonian empire collapsed and was conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia. They were haunted by memories of what Jerusalem had once been, with its stately palaces, magnificent temple and awe-inspiring walls. The ruined city would be rebuilt, but it seemed to the people to be but a shadow of its former glory.
The people dreamed of the restoration of their glorious past and the prophet Zechariah insists that one day this restoration will take place. But the condition he places upon this restoration is that it is something that God will do—and as such, the people must wait and they must trust.
What God will do to restore the city of David will exceed their expectations.
Christians should not understand the restoration of Jerusalem to mean the establishment of Israel as a nation state or even the Church as a worldly power. The new Jerusalem is for Christians the Kingdom of God, which is not limited to the ancestral lands of Israel, but is now the whole world. We find this kingdom wherever the Eucharist is offered and the works of mercy are performed. The glory of Jerusalem is not limited to an earthly city, but it is the Church gathered to worship Christ and advance his mission.
The Gospel for today hints at the kind of kingdom that Christ the Messiah will establish. It will be a kingdom where the least among us have priority and factionalism will be rejected as a detriment to our mission.
Sadly, we still resist the coming of this kingdom, but this kingdom is present even now in the lives of the saints. It is the holiness and witness of the saints that moves the Church forward despite all the sin and resistance of the Church’s members.
It is easy to reduce our desire to be saints, to claim falsely that the call to holiness is for someone else. We can try to use the failures of others in the Church as an excuse not to aspire to more, or even to refuse the call.
But in our refusal we will discover that Christ can be relentlessly persistent. Even now he is banging on the locked doors of our hearts. We can say no, but he is all yes, and never accepts our no as the right answer.
And he will not cease in his summons, until we relent, accept his call, and let him in…
Father Steve Grunow is the Assistant Director of Word On Fire Catholic Ministries.