Daily Homily: They Forsook the Temple of the Lord

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

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2 Chronicles 24:17-25
Psalm 89:4-5, 29-30, 31-32, 33-34
Matthew 6:24-34

The princes of Judah came before King Joash and convinced him to forsake the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and serve the Asherim. This involved setting up sacred poles or trees in honor of the fertility goddess Asherah. The Law of Moses explicitly prohibited these poles trees being set up next to the temple altar (Deuteronomy 16:21-22; Leviticus 26:1). Once again God’s people were unfaithful to the covenant, renewed earlier by the priest Jehoiada. In response to their actions, the Lord God sent prophets to the people, to bring them back to him; these prophets testified against the people, but the people would not listen to them (2 Chronicles 24:17-20).

Zechariah, the son of the priest Jehoiada, was filled with the Spirit of God and spoke to the people. He accused them of transgressing the law of God and forsaking the Lord. Instead of turning away from the idols and back to the Lord God, the people conspired against Zechariah and stoned him in the temple court. The author of Chronicles places the burden of guilt for Zechariah on King Joash: «Thus, Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son».

Zechariah’s dying words ask the Lord to see these actions of the people and of the princes of Judah and to avenge his death. This punishment happens within a year: Arameans (Syrians) invade Judah and Jerusalem and they do away with the princes of Judah. When the Arameans leave Jerusalem, the servants of the king conspired against him because he consented to the murder of Zechariah. The Second Book of Kings tells us that the servants slew the king in the house of Millo, on the way that goes down to Sila (2 Kings 11:20-21).

Even though King Joash eliminated the pagan worship of Ba’al throughout Judah at the beginning of his reign, he allowed the worship of the fertility goddess Asherah, the consort of Ba’al, at the end of his reign. He chose to follow the princes of Judah rather than the commandment of God.

Today’s psalm applies to King Joash, a descendant of King David. Because he forsook the law of God and did not walk according to the ordinances of the Lord, because he violated God’s statutes and did not keep the Lord’s commands, God punished his crime with a rod and his guilt with stripes. At the same time, God is faithful to the covenant he made with his servant David. In spite of the infidelity of David’s sons, God will raise up Jesus, «the root and offspring of David» (Revelation 22:16). Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of David, and is the one who fulfills the covenants made with them both. Jesus’ «birthplace, ministry, resurrection, and enthronement are all depicted in terms drawn from the Davidic covenant. […] Also in fulfillment of the dynastic promise made to David, Jesus is described throughout Luke as the ‘Son of God,’ and his royal mission is inextricably bound to Jerusalem and the temple; the kingdom he envisions is to embrace all twelve tribes of Israel and all the nations, and it is to be eternal» (S. Hahn, The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire, Baker Academic, 82).

Like the first reading, which warns us against serving false gods, the Gospel today warns us against serving «mammon». «Mammon is a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic word for wealth and possessions. It is derived from a word that means ‘believe, trust’; thus it means ‘that in which one places trust'» (C. Mitch and E. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Baker Academic, 110). Mammon can enslave us and keep us from serving God. In short, serving mammon enslaves us; serving God frees us. We are freed from anxiety because we place our hope in almighty God and not in the «almighty dollar». We are to entrust our lives to our heavenly Father who knows what we need even before we ask him. Our goal is not to amass wealth here on earth, but to collaborate with God in the extension of his kingdom of righteousness, peace, joy, and love. God truly reigns in us when we are obedient to his loving will; and as as good king and Father, he will give us subjects and his children everything they need (our daily bread; forgiveness from sin; perseverance when tested and tempted; deliverance from evil).

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

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Jason Mitchell

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