23rd June. Monday in the 12th Week
1) 2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15, 18
(The disaster and exile of Israel’s northern tribes followed their failure to listen to God’s warning through his prophets.)
Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshipped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.
Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their ancestors, and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false; they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do as they did. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.
Gospel: Matthew 7:1-5
(How we judge others will determine our own judgment by God.)
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.
Learning Humility from Experience
After two centuries of schism, the tragic story of Israel’s northern tribes comes to a fiery end when their capital city, Samaria, is stormed and captured by the Assyrians. The people left alive after the ordeal of a three year siege are marched into exile and historical oblivion. By this stern judgment of God, most of Abram’s descendants, ten out of the twelve tribes, were suppressed by a gentile nation for whom they were supposed to be a blessing. Yet, in the gospel we are told not to judge others. Is God, we wonder, above his own law of compassion and forgiveness?
The mystery of divine providence cannot be presented in any simple way that would explain why some are chosen and others seem unchosen. At times the question is squarely faced in the Bible, for instance in today’s reading from 2 Kings –without the answer being utterly persuasive. Yes, the northern tribes did not keep God’s commandments; but neither did the remaining tribe of Judah. And while Jerusalem, their capital, was razed to the ground (2 Kings 25) they survived the Babylonian exile and became a remnant group who rebuilt the Holy City and prepared for the coming of the Messiah.
Another attempt to explain divine election and non-election is made in the Book of Deuteronomy: It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are the smallest of all nations. It was because the Lord loved you.. that he brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery (Deut 7:7-8). From this text we see that a non-negotiable element for survival is a sense of humble gratitude. Humility quickly leads to generosity, generosity to trust in God, and trust in God to a profound sense of prayer and adoration.
Humble people will not lose the promised land, the divine blessing, for God always remembers his promise in their regard. The humble find their strength in God and then show kindness towards their neighbours, as the best form of human behaviour.