26th June. Thursday in the 12th Week
First Reading: 2 Kings 24:8-17
(The first deportation of the Jews to Babylon, in 597 B.C.)
Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign; he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his father had done.
At that time the servants of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to the city, while his servants were besieging it; King Jehoiachin of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself, his mother, his servants, his officers, and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign.
He carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house; he cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which King Solomon of Israel had made, all this as the Lord had foretold. He carried away all Jerusalem, all the officials, all the warriors, ten thousand captives, all the artisans and the smiths; no one remained, except the poorest people of the land. He carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon; the king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the elite of the land, he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. The king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valour, seven thousand, the artisans and the smiths, one thousand, all of them strong and fit for war. The king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
Gospel: Matthew 7:21-29
(Faith counts more than words; we must build on rock, not sand.
“Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall!”
Then, when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
God can help us reverse the consequences of our faults. But first we must become aware of those faults, and feel the nemesis of sin within our own personal experience. According to the covenant-theology of the Old Testament from Deuteronomy to 2 Kings, the Israelites were blessed and cherished by God insofar as they kept His law, as they had promised; but if they abandoned the covenant they would be punished with exile and disaster. This is precisely the reason, they reckoned, why they were invaded by the Babylonians and carried off to shameful exile, as graphically described in the first reading. But in the long-term effects of that exile, the people of God reached a purified, more spiritual understanding of religion. It is something we may hope will emerge from the Church’s present troubles, and from the large fall-off in churchgoing, that we may experience a new birth of faith and a return to a simpler, purer form of religion.
The house of peace is built on the rock of Christ where we are all one family, one blood. We must do much more than simply say “my brother, my sister” or “Lord, Lord!” It is not enough to make one single lavish display of goodwill and then think we can forget all about our neighbour. A house of mere words will not last; it is built on sand and will be easily washed away at the next storm. Jesus calls us to do the will of our heavenly Father, his Father and ours. We enter the kingdom of God, the secure house of faithful love, by doing the will of God continuously and faithfully.