Daily Homily: Jehoiada the Priest Made a Covenant

Friday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20
Psalm 132:11, 12, 13-14, 17-18
Matthew 6:19-23

During the past few days, we have read about the prophet Elijah in the northern kingdom of Israel and how he led the efforts to combat paganism and the worship of Ba’al. Today, we read about the southern kingdom of Judah, the reigns of Queen Athaliah (842-837) and King Joash (837-796), and how the priest Jehioada led the efforts against paganism and the worship of Ba’al.

After the execution of her son, Queen Athaliah commits two grievous sins. First, she attempts to kill off the entire royal family, to exterminate the house of David. She almost succeeded, but thanks to Jehosheba, Joash (Athaliah’s grandson) was taken away and hid in the temple for six years. On the one hand, Jehosheba’s actions parallel those of Jochebed and Miriam who saved the baby Moses from the wrath of pharaoh. On the other, the story prefigures the wrath of King Herod who tried to kill Jesus, of the house of David. The queen’s second sin is that she worships the pagan god Ba’al and even introduces this worship into the Jerusalem temple.

When the six years pass, in the seventh year, the priest Jehoiada prepares to show Joash to the people. After proclaiming Joash king, crowning him and anointing him, Jehoiada commands that Queen Athaliah be put to death outside the temple of the Lord. Jehoiada then makes a covenant between the Lord, the king and the people. Led by the king Joash and the priest Jehoiada, the people destroy the altars and images of Ba’al throughout the land of Judah.

Joash reigned for forty years in Jeruslaem and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. Nevertheless, although the altars and images of Ba’al were destroyed, the high places were not taken away and the people of Judah continued to sacrifice and burn incense on the high places. In response, King Joash begins to collect money to repair the temple, the house of the Lord.

After the death of Jehoiada the priest, the princes of Judah came before the king and convinced him to forsake the house of the Lord and serve the god Asherim and idols. In response, the Lord God send prophets to Judah and Jerusalem, to bring the people back to him, these prophets testified against the people, but the people would not give heed (2 Chronicles 24:17-20).

Today’s psalm recalls the covenant made with David. God promised him that if his sons (his descendants) keep his covenant, their sons will forever sit upon his throne. «The covenant with David is a divine gift or ‘grant’: God binds himself by divine oath, swearing unwavering fidelity and promising unconditional blessings and everlasting kingship to David and his offspring. This covenant of grant seems to reward David’s single-minded dedication to restoring Israel as a priestly kingdom and building a house for the ark of the covenant» (S. Hahn, The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire, Baker Academic, 70-71).

The life of King Joash exemplifies the two teachings in today’s Gospel. Under the guidance of Jehoiada, Joash’s heart is in the right place and he sees clearly. He works to eliminate pagan worship and restore God’s temple. Towards the end of his life, however, he allows himself to be swayed by the princes of Judah and permits the worship of idols. His heart is turned from God and reigns over Judah in darkness. He is spiritually blind.

Up to this point, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has dealt with the law, (5:17-48) and given indications about almsgiving, prayer and fasting (6:1-18). Now, in the third part of his sermon, Jesus teaches his disciples how they should use their material possessions and trust in divine providence (6:19-34).

What matters is not earthly treasure, but heavenly treasure. Earthly treasures pass away and we can’t take them with us when we die. We store up heavenly treasure through righteous deeds, done not out of vanity or for show, but out of love. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are done, not to be seen by others, but for God alone.

The difference between building up earthly treasure and building up heavenly treasure is paralleled by the difference between spiritual blindness (or darkness) and walking by the light of Christ. «Christ’s teaching here shows that the way one approaches wealth affects the entire self. The sound, generous eye illumines like a lamp; the selfish, greedy evil eye leaves a person in darkness» (C. Mitch and E. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Baker Academic, 109).

Are we blinded, then, by wealth and the pursuit of things that do not last? Or do we seek to be poor in spirit and trustworthy administrators of the gifts and talents we have received from God? Are there any «idols» I keep hidden in my life, but secretly worship? Have I allowed God to reign fully in my heart or are there some places where I deny God entry? What is it that keep from the light of Christ?

We pray, then, that God enlighten our hearts so that we may see this world as it really is. We pray that the idols of earthly wealth, power and pleasure gain no foothold in our hearts. We ask God today to keep us on the narrow path that leads to eternal life. «There is one thing I ask of the Lord, only this do I seek: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life» (Psalm 27(26):4).

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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