All the heads of the priesthood, and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for himself in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, tirelessly sent them messenger after messenger, since he wished to spare his people and his house. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.
They burned down the Temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it. The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. This is how the word of the Lord was fulfilled that he spoke through Jeremiah, ‘Until this land has enjoyed its sabbath rest, until seventy years have gone by, it will keep sabbath throughout the days of its desolation.’
And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up.”’
First reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
The reading speaks of a Sabbath rest: not a day’s rest for the people, but a Sabbath of 70 years for land and people – a time of repentance and recovery for the sins for which Israel finds herself in exile.
It echoes our time of Lent: a time when we are called to know our sins and repent of them and find the Sabbath comfort that reconciliation brings, confessing our sins and being offered peace and wholeness and hope.
Any time can serve as a time for repentance of sins, but for us, especially, it is Lent: each year time to know our faults, our failings and to know the love of God for us despite this.
Lent Frontal by Johnny Dewe Matthews. Photo (c) 2011, Allen Morris