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The Covenant Renewed

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

We are currently reading from the Prophet Zechariah, a so-called "minor" prophet of the Hebrew Scriptures. The twelve minor prophets are so designated because their writings are shorter than those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The brevity of their writings does not, however, diminish the importance in any way.

Zechariah was a post-exilic prophet. His writings speak of the period of Jewish history that comes at the end of the Babylonian Captivity. The Israelites had lived under the subjugation of Assyria for two generations before they were allowed to return to their homeland. It is important to remember that Jerusalem was almost totally destroyed by the Assyrians. So returning to Jerusalem was not an easy task. Those who chose to return endured the hardships of a long journey only to begin many years of privation and hard work in the task of rebuilding.

Zechariah's task is, therefore, one of instilling hope in the people who have returned. The oracle that we read today speaks of God's abiding concern for Jerusalem and its inhabitants. God promises to restore Jerusalem, to bring her scattered children home again. However, even more than this, Zechariah proclaims that the Sinai Covenant, entered into by God and Israel when they escaped the slavery of Egypt, is once again the motivating force. However, like so many of the later prophets, Zechariah removes the condition from the covenant. It is no longer "if you will be my people. . ." Now the covenant statement is a positive assertion: "You will be my people and I will be your God." God has once again proven that the covenant was not a reciprocal agreement. God has done this by rescuing the people of Israel from slavery and restoring them to their home. God did not do this because the Israelites had earned this proof of love; rather God did this because God is Love.

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