2 Kings 24:8-17
Psalm 79:1b-2, 3-5, 8, 9
The reforms of King Hezekiah (715-686 BC) and King Josiah (640-609BC) failed to stem the tide of divine judgment against Judah. The sins of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, were abominable: Manasseh “not only rebelled against God’s covenant but perfected evil in Judah and Jerusalem as never before. He even sacrificed his own children on the fiery altar of the pagan god Molech and ordered the death of thousands of Jewish children on altars outside of Jerusalem” (S. Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, 223).
These sins sealed the fate of Jerusalem and not even the reform of Josiah was enough to correct the evil. “Despite Josiah’s desperate efforts to renew the covenant, Pharaoh Necho defeated and killed him in battle at Megiddo. Three months later [Necho] deposed Josiah’s son Jehoahaz and installed Jehoiakim as a puppet king. Jehoiakim’s ‘reign’ was therefore already bondage” (M. Levering, Ezra & Nehemiah, Brazos Press, 40). Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim, reigned in Judah for eleven years, but “did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done”.
Two decades after the reforms of King Josiah, Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians in 597 BC and the first deportation of exiles to Babylon occurs. The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, carried away all Jerusalem, and left the poorest people of the land behind. In place of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Mattaniah, Jehoiakim’s uncle, as king and changed his name to Zedekiah. In response to Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar will return a decade later to lay siege to Jerusalem and carry the Jews away into captivity for seventy years.
The Book of Chronicles says this about Zedekiah’s reign: “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God; he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel. All the leading priests and the people likewise were unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 36:12-14).
Psalm 78 is taken from Book Three of the Psalter. The Psalm “contrasts the promises of the Davidic kingdom and Zion with the reality of Israel in exile. If Israel is God’s ‘inheritance’ why have the nations been allowed to overcome them? If God has loved Zion so much and has made it His sanctuary, why has God allowed his Temple to be defiled and destroyed? Like many of the Davidic psalms, it ends with a promise to offer todah [thanksgiving] once the restoration has occurred (v. 13)” (M. Barber, Singing in the Reign, 110).
In the Gospel, Jesus, the son of David, concludes his Sermon on the Mount with two teachings: the first is the need to do the will of the Father in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; the second is to listen to Jesus words and act on them. The two teachings go hand in hand: Jesus is the one who reveals to us the will of the Father. Every time we read the Gospel in prayer, we are listening to Jesus’ words. By keeping his commands, we remain in his love (John 15:10). God’s word enables us to find the path that leads to harmony with God’s loving will. In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict teaches that we can discern God’s will and recognize it in our conscience, but that we also need Jesus to draw us up to himself and into himself, so that in communion with him we can learn God’s will (see J. Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, Part One, 148-150).
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.