24 Sept, Saturday of Week 25
Zech 2:5ff. In a vision Jerusalem is seen as a home of peace where many nations come to dwell.
Lk 9:43ff. Jesus’ enigmatic prophecy of his death. The disciples fear to question him about its meaning.
Today’s Scriptures send out two quite different signals about the future. Zechariah’s prophecy is strong in symbolic expressions of hope, while Jesus speaks bluntly and sternly about his death. Without the sobering reminder of death, the hopes expressed by the prophecy might deserve the charge of “pie in the sky,” often thrown in the face of religion.
The text from Zechariah is taken from a series of visions in the early part of the prophecy. Visions are necessary for survival when times are bleak, and Zechariah lived during the early postexilic period when the temple was still in ruins, the people ever more indifferent and their high priest, Joshua, was clad in filthy garments (Zech 3:3). It was this prophet who coined the phrase, “day of small beginnings” (4:10), but under the impact of the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Isaiah 40-55, Zechariah dreams of a better future: Jerusalem, so peaceful that no walls are necessary; Jerusalem, like an “open country” because of the multitude of its people and and having the glory of the Lord in its midst.
Zechariah’s message is that we never have a good reason for staying gloomy and pessimistic. Each element of our sorrow can be transformed into a reason for hope. The prophet speaks out in God’s name, “I am determined to favour Jerusalem and the house of Judah; do not fear. These are the things you should do: speak the truth to one another; let there be honesty and peace in the judgments at your gates.” He effectively combined visions with earthy practicality. It may be more correct to state that his visions of hope would not permit him to accept dishonesty and so he appears as well as a stalwart moral reformer. Zechariah strikes us as the type of young person to whom the wisdom writings were addressed, “Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes.”
But soon Ecclesiastes turned from the portrait of the young and painted his extraordinary vignette of old age and death. We cannot help but think of lonely old people, sitting all day long with their silent companions, staring into space: the sun is darkened; the grinders (teeth) are idle; all the singing maidens are silenced. We need these words lest we forget the aged and the dying. One day we too will join their ranks and we need to be told that such is the stuff of inspiration, for God is ever present.
Certainly Jesus was there, with the lonely and the dying. He prepared himself and his disciples for the difficult time. His words were clear, “the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of men.” If the disciples failed to understand this warning, it was because they were unwilling to believe their ears. For this reason they would not question him about it, lest Jesus reinforce what they thought he said. He repeated the warning as he drew closer to Jerusalem. Hope for the resurrection grew out of the reality of death. Like Zechariah, Jesus could see visions to support the bleakness of life and arrive at life’s finest moral ideals and eternal possibilities. Like Ecclesiastes Jesus faced up in faith, to the reality of death.
First Reading: Zc 2:5-11
For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it.”
Up, up! Flee from the land of the north, says the Lord; for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven, says the Lord.
Up! Escape to Zion, you that live with daughter Babylon.
For thus said the Lord of hosts (after his glory sent me) regarding the nations that plundered you: Truly, one who touches you touches the apple of my eye.
See now, I am going to raise my hand against them, and they shall become plunder for their own slaves. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me.
Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord.
Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.
Gospel: Luke 9:43-45
And all the crowd were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.