This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church.
Ezekiel 37: 21-28
Say, “The Lord says this: I shall take the Israelites from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil.
22 I shall make them into one nation in the country, on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms.
23 They will no longer defile themselves with their foul idols, their horrors and any of their crimes. I shall save them from the acts of infidelity which they have committed and shall cleanse them; they will be my people and I shall be their God.
24 My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my judgements, respect my laws and practise them.
25 They will live in the country which I gave to my servant Jacob, the country in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever.
26 I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and make them grow; I shall set my sanctuary among them for ever.
27 I shall make my home above them; I shall be their God, and they will be my people.
28 And the nations will know that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.”
On the one hand, Ezekiel’s prophecy sounds good: the division between Israel and Judah will be healed, there will be no more idolatry, exiles will be re-settled, God’s law will be obeyed. Hallelujah! On the other hand, what about the people who want the division, what about the people who worship other Gods, and especially, what about the people who have always lived in the land, that is now to be for Jews alone?
Interpreting prophecy one- sidedly and apolitically fails to take it seriously. We have to imagine how this sort of prophecy played in the community of returned exiles in 533 BCE, and we know how it plays in Israel today. Everlasting covenants of peace can no more exist in one country, than can socialism.
Gospel, John 11:45-56
45 Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what he did, believed in him,
46 but some of them went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done.
47 Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs,’ they said, ‘and what action are we taking?
48 If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and suppress the Holy Place and our nation.’
49 One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all;
50 you fail to see that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish.’
51 He did not speak in his own person, but as high priest of that year he was prophesying that Jesus was to die for the nation-
52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather together into one the scattered children of God.
53 From that day onwards they were determined to kill him.
54 So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.
55 The Jewish Passover was drawing near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves
56 were looking out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’
John sees that peace belongs only to the “scattered children of God” (that is, from all nations), and that they can only be gathered through the death of “God’s son” at the hands of the competing nationalisms of Rome and Israel. Of course, the sinful blindness of human beings is at the basis of the opposition to Jesus, but we should not forget that John’s is the most political account of the crucifixion, even-handed in its depiction of the manipulations of Jewish leaders and the cynicism of Pilate. Those who are gathered by Jesus’ death, God’s scattered children, are those perennially at risk from the self-interested manoeuvres of the power brokers of the world. In their defencelessness they may know Jesus as their brother.