28Sep 28 September, 2013. Saturday of the Twenty Fifth Week

Zech 2:5ff. Jerusalem will be a centre of peace where many will come to dwell.

Lk 9:43ff. Jesus’ prophesies his death. The disciples fear to ask about its meaning.

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.

Life’s Eternal Possibilities

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 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 indifferent to the temple and their high priest Joshua was clad in filthy garments (Zech 3:3). This was prophet who coined the phrase, “day of small beginnings” (4:10), but under the impact of other prophets (Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Isaiah), Zechariah dreams of a better future and of a Jerusalem so peaceful that no walls are needed, having the glory of the Lord in its midst.

Zechariah’s message is that we don’t need to stay gloomy and pessimistic. Each sorrow can be transformed into a reason for hope. The prophet speaks in God’s name, “I will 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 combined visions with earthy practicality, for he appears also as a 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.”

In the Gospel Jesus was preparing himself and his disciples for the difficult time ahead, when he will be “delivered into the hands of men.” If the disciples failed to understand this, it was because they were unwilling to believe their ears. They would not question him about it, lest Jesus repeat what they thought he said. But he repeated the warning as he drew closer to Jerusalem. Hope for resurrection grew out of the reality of death. Like Zechariah, Jesus could see visions to sustain him through the bleakness of life and arrive at life’s eternal possibilities.