The period of the history of Israel that is known as the Babylonian exile or captivity lasted about 70 years from 609 to 538 B.C. The Kingdom of Israel was conquered first followed by a siege of the Kingdom of Judah. The temple in Jerusalem was burned to the ground. The heirs of the king of Judah were executed and thousands of Jews were forced into exile in Babylon. Ezekiel was among those who lived in Babylon during the exile, and it was he who prophesied about God’s initiative to cleanse Israel of its defection from the covenant relationship. God promised the children of Israel, through Ezekiel, that Israel would be restored. We hear part of his prophecy in today’s first reading.
Seventy years doesn’t sound like a particularly long time for those of us who about that age. However, we should remember the average lifetime in ancient Israel was about thirty-five years. So this means that the Babylonian captivity lasted for about two generations. Even today, only eight percent of the people in our world live to be older than sixty-five. We must also take into account that even though the Israelites were allowed to return to their homeland, the country never really regained its place in the world. So awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise to restore them took a great deal of perseverance and hope.
It is reasonable to think that fatigue in perseverance might have settled in for some of the people of Jesus’ time. The people had already waited centuries for the Messiah and had endured many false claimants. The Pharisees were concerned that Jesus’ preaching and signs would bring unwanted attention from the Romans under whose subjugation they now lived. They did not believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies of God’s restoration of Israel.
For us, Jesus is the embodiment of the hope that God will fulfill all the promises we have heard. The promises that God has made are worth the wait. So we continue to hold on to hope and stubbornly persevere in our faith. Seeing the fulfillment of God’s promises will be worth every bit of difficulty we may endure in our lifetime.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator