EXILE. The land shelters

The land shelters
exilio1. Let us see the biblical experience of the exile. The exile is the parting of a person from his land. It is the penalty close before the death penalty. As far the year 734 some Israelite cities go through that hard experience (2 Re 15, 29) and in 721 the whole people: “The Assyrian king seized Samaria and he deported the Israelites to Assyria” (17, 6). Nevertheless, the hardest and deepest deportations were those of the years 597, 587 and 582: “In this manner Judah was deported far from his land” (25, 21). “4.600 people in the whole” (Jr 52, 30). In the picture, exiled Spaniards in the south of France. Amidst the exile, the land shelters.
2. The exile seemed impossible. It seemed to contradict God´s plans foreseen in the exodus. It is a denial to all his promises: abandon of the Promised Land, king’s destitution, foreign occupation of the temple. Sedecias, king of Judah, prepares a coalition against Babylon, where there are internal riots. He believes that Jerusalem, the saint city cannot surrender. The Princes of the nations (Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians) do not save. They rather, divide and oppress: “Do not place your confidence on princes” (Ps 146)
3. They disregarded all. They rejected prophet’s word: “The heads of the priests and the people multiplied their infidelities, following their abominable habits, and they stained the Lord’s house”, “they made fun of God´s messengers, they despised their words and evaded their prophets, until the Lord’s anger grew up against his people to such a grade that there was not remedy anymore” (Cr 36, 14 – 16).
4. When the exile is already a fact, the reaction is to deny it, or to believe that soon everything will be right. Prophet Jeremy denounces such an illusion: “Do not be tricked neither by the prophets present among you nor by the fortune-tellers, and disregard your dreamers who dream on their own account, because they falsely prophesy in my name”. The exile will last. ¡Seventy years! (Jr 29, 8 – 10)
5. The evidence of the exile was necessary so that the people would become conscious of their incurable wickedness. “He hoped grapes, but he got bitter bunches”, “he hoped rightness from them, and there you are: crimes; he hoped justice, and there you are: wails” (Is 5, 1 – 7). The adulterous wife is stripped: “I will deliver you in their hands”, “they will take off your dress, your jewels will be torn off and you will be completely stripped” (Ex 16, 39; Os 2). The people is deported: “I will take you out of the city, I will deliver you in foreign hands” (Ez 11, 15)
6. The psalms reflect the deplorable situation: “Remember your people whom you acquired in ancient times”, “Hurry and look at the permanent ruins, and all the damage the enemy has done to the temple! Your enemies roar in the middle of your sanctuary; they set up their battle flags, flags that were not known at the entrance’s fronton”, “they set your sanctuary on fire. We do not see any signs of God’s presence; there are no longer any prophets, and we have no one to tell us how long this will last” (Psalm 74), O God, foreigners have invaded your chosen land; they have polluted your holy temple, and turned Jerusalem into a heap of ruins, they have given the corpses of your servants to the birds of the sky” (Psalm 79), “By the rivers of Babylon we sit down and  weep when we remember Zion; On the poplars in her midst we hang our harps. For there our captors ask us to compose songs; those who mock us demand that we be happy, saying: Sing for us a song about Zion! How can we sing a song to the LORD in a foreign land? (Psalm 137)
7. The deported feel themselves abandoned from God´s hands. They are like a field of bones uncovered amidst the meadow: “Son of man, these bones are all the house of Israel. Look, they are saying, `Our bones are dry, our hope has perished, we are cut off” (Ez 37, 11), “Zion said, `the Lord has abandoned me, the sovereign master has forgotten me” (Is 49, 14)
8. The pagan army’s victory seems to be that of their gods. Temptation to leave ourselves to be fascinated by the Babylonian cult threatens. Prophetic tradition teaches the exile to despise idols. “Such idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field. They cannot talk. They must be carried because they cannot walk” (Jr 10, 5). Un exiled priest, Ezekiel, proclaims that the Lord is not locked into the temple, he travels all around the world (Ez 1), his presence is a sanctuary for the exiles: “Although I have removed them far away among the nations and have dispersed them among the countries, I have been a little sanctuary for them among the lands where they have gone.”
concilio 0019. Centred in God´s word, a cult without sacrifices is developed, a synagogue cult, in order to listen to God and to talk to him in the prayer. In this manner a community of poor people hoping God´s salvation is formed. To this community the priests relate history and teach the law. Priest’s document is the result of this, a summary of the memories and rules making Israel a “priestly people”, and a “saint nation” (Ex 19, 6; 1 P 2, 9). This updated people, far from idolatry pollution, becomes a witness of the real God. Opening his vocation as “light of the people” (Is 42, 6), he walks toward God´s universal reign: “I am the Lord, there is no other one. I have not spoken neither hidden nor in dark place. I told to Jacob’s lineage: Look for me in the emptiness” (Is 45, 18 – 19). In the photograph, a session of the Vatican Council II. With its statement about religious freedom (DH 1) and its acknowledgement of the meeting and association rights (GS 73), political participation (GS 75) and labour participation (GS 68), the Spanish national-Catholicism was wounded to death.
10. Consolation Book (Is 40 -55) describes in advance the wonders of the new exodus. God will be his people’s shepherd: “As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy, dark day. I will bring them out from among the peoples and gather them from foreign countries; I will bring them again to their own land”. "I myself will feed my sheep and I myself will make them lie down” (Ez 34, 11 – 15)
11. Renovation implies a new heart: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes” (Ez 36, 25 – 27). Jeremy disappointed by the official reforms, which are superficial and deceitful, announces a new covenant, engraved in the heart: “Indeed, a time is coming when I will make a new covenant   with the people of Israel and Judah” “I will   put my law within them   and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people. (Jr 31, 31 – 33)
12. In the year 539 Babylon falls and in 538 Cyrus of Persia issues a written decree: “The Lord God of the heavens has given to me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build for him a temple in Jerusalem1  in Judah. May the Lord your God energize you who belong to his people, so you may be able to go back there!” (2 Chro 36, 22 – 23). A wave of enthusiasm rises among the exiles. To return homes is as to resurrect: “This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am about to open your graves and will raise you from your graves, my people. I will bring you to the land of Israel” (Ez 37, 12). Those returning sing enthusiastically God´s action: “When the Lord took our destiny into His hands, we thought that we were dreaming” (Psalm 126).
13. The prophet is under hard conditions. Like a sheep he is taken to the slaughterhouse, not knowing the homicide plans soaring over him: “Let’s destroy the tree along with its fruit!   Let’s remove Jeremiah from the world of the living so people will not even be reminded of him any more.” (Jr 11, 18 – 19). Jesus also went through hard times. He arrived to his village and began to teach in the synagogue. People were saying: “Is not this Joseph’s son? He told them: “You will probably tell me: Doctor, heal yourself. All we have heard that happened in Cafarnaúm do it here in your land too”. And he added: “No prophet is acceptable in his hometown” (Lk 4, 24). It was a foreigner, Zarephath ´s widow to whom Elijah was sent, and it was a foreigner, Naaman the Syrian, the one healed by Eliseus. They throw him out of the synagogue and they try to precipitate him down the cliff. But he, going through the crowd, went away
14. In spite of everything, with its problems and failures, the land accepts the seed of the word (Mt 13, 8). The disciples are happy: “Many prophets and just men desired to see what you are seeing, but they did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but they did not hear it” (13, 17). They are Greeks, foreigners, they want to see Jesus. The moment is critical and pressing, but glorious too: “The time for the son of man to be glorified is here. I ensure you that, if the grain of wheat does not follow in the land and dies, it will be infertile; but if it dies, it will bear much fruit”. There is no doubt, the land accepts the grain of wheat that falls, and bears much fruit”. Jesus refers to his death: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” (Jn 12, 20 – 33)
* Dialogue: upon the experience of the dessert
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