This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, 2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20
1 When Athaliah mother of Ahaziah learned that her son was dead, she promptly murdered all those of royal stock. 2 But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, surreptitiously rescued Jehoash son of Ahaziah from among the princes who were to be murdered, and put him with his nurse in the sleeping quarters; in this way she hid him from Athaliah, and he was not killed.
3 He stayed, hidden with her in the Temple of Yahweh for six years, while Athaliah governed the country. 4 In the seventh year, Jehoiada sent for the regimental commanders of the Carians and the guards, and had them brought to him in the Temple of the Lord. He made a pact with them, put them on oath, then showed them the king’s son. He gave them this order, 9 The regimental commanders did everything as Jehoiada the priest had ordered, and each one brought his men, those coming on duty on the Sabbath and those going off duty on the Sabbath, and reported to Jehoiada the priest.
10 The priest then issued the regimental commanders with King David’s spears and shields, which were kept in the Temple of the Lord. 11 The guards then took position, each man with his weapons in his hand, from the south corner of the Temple to the north corner of the Temple, all round the altar and the Temple. 12 Then Jehoiada brought the king’s son out — crowned him and gave him a copy of the covenant; and they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!’
13 On hearing the people shouting, Athaliah joined the people in the Temple of the Lord. 14 When she looked, there stood the king on a dais, as the custom was, with the officers and trumpeters at the king’s side, and all the people of the country rejoicing and blowing the trumpets; then Athaliah tore her clothes and shouted, ‘Treason, treason!’ 15 Jehoiada the priest then gave the orders to the commanders in charge of the troops, ‘Take her out under guard and put to death anyone who follows her.’ ‘For’, the priest had already said, ‘she must not be killed inside the Temple of the Lord.’ 16 They seized her, and when she reached the horses’ entry to the palace, she was killed there.
17 Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord, the king and the people that they would remain the Lord’s people; and another one between the king and the people.
18 All the people of the country then went to the temple of Baal and demolished it; they smashed its altars and its images and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars. The priest made arrangements for the security of the Temple of the Lord. 20 All the people of the country were delighted; the city, however, made no move. And Athaliah was put to death inside the palace.
The historians of the Books of Kings depict the story of the kings of Israel and Judah as a struggle between the worship of the true God and the Baals, the local Gods of the Canaanites, and at the same time a struggle against the injustices of the royal families. It’s difficult to judge if anyone at the time would have seen the story in those terms, or to assess the accuracy of the information we’re given. For these reasons it may be better to read these books as historical novels rather than as scientific history. The stories are vivid and bloodthirsty, usually focusing on an evil monarch and a faithful servant of the Lord, in this case, the princess Jehosheba and the priest Jehoiada. They both take terrible risks to guard the life of the prince, and he organises with cold efficiency to have him crowned and to get rid of Athaliah. In bad situations those who use political skill to preserve life and establish justice are blessed. Bonhoeffer judged that killing Hitler would be a good thing to do, although the plot failed and he lost his life. Mandela judged that the armed struggle was necessary to preserve the lives of black people, and the struggle succeeded in spite of his imprisonment.
The writers of Kings believed that the priests and altars of Baal defiled the land and so approved the smashing and killing. If, however, the reader counts the number of times in the books of Kings the priests and altars of Baal are destroyed, she may judge that some of these accounts are wish-lists rather than reality.
Gospel, Matthew 6:19-23
19 ‘Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. 20 But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. 21 For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too. 22 ‘The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is clear, your whole body will be filled with light. 23 But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkened, what darkness that will be!
Jesus is not drawing a distinction between earthly life and a place we go to after death. Earth means the world as it is, and heaven (short for the kingdom of heaven) is the world to come (on earth). (The disciples are promised that in the world to come they will have land and family and to spare, referring to the communal life of the church.)
Jesus uses the common wisdom to point out the unreliability of worldly wealth. Bit he follows it with a very uncommon perception: where your treasure is, there your heart will be. Common wisdom says where your heart is, there your treasure will be, meaning that it is our attitude to wealth that matters. Jesus controverts this by saying that our possessions will rule our affections. Unhappily, he seems to be right.
It is easy and dangerous to be self-deceived: to see truthfully is vital.