48. EXILE. The land welcomes

48. EXILE.
The land welcomes

1. Let´s see the biblical experience of the exile. The exile is the separation of a person from his land. It is the sentence lower that the death penalty. Already in the year 734 some cities of Israel go through this hard experience. (2 Re 15, 29) and in the 721 the whole people: “the king of Assyria captured Samaria, exiled the Israelites to Asshur” (17, 6). Nevertheless, the deportations that leave more trace are those of Judah in the years 597, 587 and 582: “And so Judah was deported far from its land” (25, 21), “in total 4.600 persons” (Jr 52, 30). In the photograph, Spaniards exiled in the south of France. Amidst the exile, the land welcomes.

2. The exile seemed impossible. It seemed to contradict God´s designs present in the exodus. It was a denial to all his promises: abandon of the promised land, king’s destitution, foreign occupation of the temple. Sedecías, king of Judah, prepares a coalition against Babylon where internal riots are taking place. It is believed that Jerusalem, the holy city cannot succumb. The princes of the nations (Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylon) do not save. They rather, dived and oppress. “Don’t place your confidence in princes” (Ps 146)

3. They did not pay attention. They despised the word of the prophets: “Furthermore, all the heads of the priesthood, and the people, too, were exceedingly unfaithful, following the disgusting example of the nations around them, and so they defiled the house which Yahweh himself had made holy”, “they mocked the messengers of God, ignored his words, and laughed at his prophets, until at last the anger of Yahwé rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.” (2 Chr 36, 14. 16)

4. When the exile is already a fact, the reaction is to deny it, or to think that everything will soon be fixed. Prophet Jeremy denounces this illusion: “Do not be deceived by the prophets and seers who are among you. Do not believe in their dreams or be confident in their illusions. For I did not send them and they take advantage of my name to foretell lies”. The exile will last seventy years (Jr 29, 8 – 10).

5. The evidence of the exile was necessary so that the people would be conscious of its incurable perversion. The Lord’s vineyard delivers wild grapes: “Good grapes was the yield I expected, why did it yield only sour grapes?” “He looked for justice, but found bloodshed. He looked for righteousness  but heard cries of distress. (Is 5, 1 – 7). The adulterous wife is stripped of her belongings: “I shall deliver you in their hands”, “they will strip you of your dresses, they will tear off your jewels and they will leave you completely naked” (Ez 16, 3-9;Os 2).The people is deported; “I shall take you out of the city, I shall deliver you in the hands of foreigners” (Ez 11, 15).

6. The psalms gather up the unfortunate situation: “Remember the people you have formed of old”, “Climb and visit these hopeless ruins, the enemy has ravaged everything in the sanctuary. Your foes have roared triumphantly in the holy place, and set up their banner of victory.” “they set aflame the dwelling place of your name . With no signs and no prophets, no one can tell how long this will last.” (Ps 74), “the pagans have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple and reduced Jerusalem to rubble, they have given your servants’ corpses to the birds” (Ps 79), “By the streams of Babylon, we sat and then wept as we remembered Zion. When on the poplars we hung our harps our captors asked for song. Our tormentors wanted songs of joy: “Sing to us one of the songs of Zion!” How could we sing the Lord’s song in a strange and alien land?

7. Those deported feel themselves left from God´s hand. They are like a field of bones left exposed in the middle of the meadow: “These bones are all Israel. They keep saying: ‘Our bones are dry, hope has gone, it is the end of us” (Ez 37, 11), “Zion said: “Yahweh has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me” (Is 49, 14).

8. The victory of the pagan army seems to be that of their gods. The temptation of allowing to be fascinated Babylonian worship is watching. Prophetic tradition teaches the deported to despise the idols: “Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field; they cannot speak. They have to be carried because they cannot walk.” (Jr 10, 5). A deported priest, Ezekiel, proclaims that the Lord is not locked is the temple, he goes over all the earth (Ez 1), his presence is a sanctuary for the deported: “I myself have sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the peoples, but I have been a sanctuary for them.” (Ez 11, 16)

9. Centered is God´s word a worship without sacrifices, a synagogue cult to listen God and to talk to him in the prayer is developed. In this way a community of poor people who hope God´s salvation is formed. To this community the priests narrate the history and teach the law. The result of this is the priestly document, a collection of the memories and the precepts that make Israel a priestly people” and a “saint nation” (Ex 19, 6; 1 P 2, 9). This renewed people, far from being contaminated by the idolatry, becomes a witness of the true Lord. Opening itself to his vocation of “light of the people” (Is 42, 6), he directs himself to the universal God´s kingdom: “I am Yahweh and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from a dark place of the earth; I have not said to the race of Jacob: Seek me, but all will be confused,” (Is 45, 18 – 19). In the photograph, a session of the Vatican Council II. With is declaration about the religious freedom (DH 1) and its acknowledgment of the rights of meeting and association (GS 73), of political participation (GS 75) and of labour participation (GS 68), the Spanish national-Catholicism was mortally wounded.

10. The Consolation Book (Is 40 – 55) describes in advance the wonder of the new exodus. God will be the shepherd of his people: “As the shepherd looks after his flock when he finds them scattered, so will I watch over my sheep and gather them from all the places where they were scattered in a time of cloud and fog. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from other countries. I will lead them again to their own land” “I myself will tend my sheep and let them rest” (Ez 34, 11 – 15)

11. The renovation means a new heart: “I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I shall put my spirit within you and move you to follow my decrees and keep my laws” (Ez 36, 26 – 27). Jeremiah, disappointed by the official reform, that is superficial and deceitful, announces a new alliance, engraved in the heart: “The time is coming when I will forge a new covenant with the people of Israel and the people of 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. Babylon falls the year 539 and in the 538 Cyrus´ edict is promulgated: “Yahweh, the God of heaven, has ordered me to build him a house in Jerusalem, in Judah. Now, all of you who belong to his people, go there and may Yahweh your God be with you”. (2 Cr 36, 22-23). A wave of enthusiasm raises among the exiled. To come back home is like to resurrect: “I am going to open your tombs, I shall bring you out of your tombs, my people, and lead you back to the land of Israel” (Ex 37, 12. Those who go back home sing with joy God´s action “ When the Lord took in his hands our destiny, we seemed to dream” (Ps 126).

13. The prophet has a difficult task. As a lamb is taken to the slaughterhouse, without knowing the homicide plans that are plotted against it: “Let us feed him with trials and remove him from the land of the living and let his name never be mentioned again.” (Jr11, 18-19). Jesus has a difficult task. He arrived to his people and he began to teach in the synagogue. The people said: “Is this not Joseph’s son?” He told them: ““Doubt less you will quote me the saying: Doctor, heal yourself! Do here in your town what they say you did in Capernaum.” Jesus added, “No prophet is honoured in his own country.” (Lk 4, 24). It was a foreign maid, Sarepta widow, the one to whom Elijah was sent, and it was a foreign man, the Syrian Naamán, the one healed by Elisha. They throw him out of the synagogue and they attempt to tumble him down the cliff. But he, passing through them, went away (4, 25 – 30)

14. In spite of everything, with its problems and failures, the earth embraces the seed of the word (Mt 13, 8). The disciples are happy: “Many prophets and upright people would have longed to see the things you see, but they did not, and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear it.” (13, 17). They are Greeks, foreigners, those who want to see Jesus. The moment is critical and compelling, but also glorious: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” There is no doubt, the land embraces the grain of wheat that falls down, and produces much fruit . Jesus is referring to his death: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all to myself.” (Jn 12, 20 – 33)
* Dialogue: about the experience of the exile.

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