Day 271: Israel's foreign wives

Ezra 9:1-15 Ezra soon learned that the people of Israel who had returned earlier from exile, including the Levites and priests, had intermarried with their pagan neighbors, an act that was forbidden by the Law. Much pained by the news, Ezra turned to the Lord in petition and offered penance. 

Ch 9:3 Rent my garments: To tear one’s garment was an expression of outrage or mourning (cf. 2 Sm 1:11).

Ch 9:6-15 This prayer bears evidence of an increasing depth of intercessory prayer among the people of Israel as the Old Testament narrative continues. Scripture has usually spoken of the relationship of God and humanity as one of commandment and obedience. As the history of the Chosen People progressed, a more personal relationship between God and his people developed. This more intimate relationship was expressed not only in prayers of praise and thanksgiving but also in acts of contrition and in humble petition. This deepening relationship was part of the preparation for the coming of the Messiah, when Christ would become incarnate, thereby making God more accessible to the faithful than ever before. (CCC 2585, 2826)

Ch 9:8 Leave us a remnant: Particularly disturbing to Ezra was that those returning from exile were already acknowledged to be the small “remnant” of the people of Israel who had remained faithful to the covenant. The infidelity of even this special remnant threatened the very survival of the Chosen People. 

Ch 10:1-44 Many of the Judeans repented of their error in marrying foreign women, and a decision was made that all the Jews with foreign wives would divorce them and send them back to their own peoples. An assembly of all Judeans was called to make the announcement, and the priests made the separations official under the Law over the next few days. Marriage to a non-Christian or to a non-Catholic Christian is not forbidden by the Church, but such unions can present certain problems to religious practice and to the transmission of the Catholic Faith to the children of these marriages. (CCC 1633-1637)

Zechariah 9:1-17 This chapter initiates the second part of this prophetic work, which consists of a series of poetic oracles rather than narrative text. The first oracle, which continues through to the end of Chapter 11, foretells the coming of the Messiah, the king for whom the Jews so long awaited and the restoration of Israel.

Ch 9:9 Your king comes to you…: This messianic prophecy is referenced clearly in the Gospels. Before his imminent death, Christ entered the last time into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, where the people proclaimed him king. This prefiguring reference also occurs in the Psalms (cf. Ps 24:7-10). (CCC 559)

Ch 9:10 He shall command peace to the nations: A sign of a good king and shepherd of Israel was the capacity to secure and maintain peace. Some of the kings did this to greater or lesser degrees, but the fullness of peace can only be found in Christ. (CSDC 378, 491)

Ch 10:1-12 The Lord strengthened both Judah and Samaria and reunited the two separated territories of Israel as the exiles and dispersed Jews continued to return to their homeland.

Ch 10:1-2 This passage instructed the people to present their petitions to the Lord only and not to any pagan deity. They were strongly prohibited from seeking recourse from those who dabbled in magic or other divinations. Such acts constitute offenses against the First Commandment.

Ch 11:1-17 The rejection of Zechariah as a shepherd is a clear prefigurement of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who also suffered rejection. This situation is unclear, but it appears that the rebuilding of Jerusalem had not gone well; when Nehemiah arrived from exile in 455 BC, he found the city in disarray (cf. Neh 2:11-18) even though the Second Temple, which was supposed to have united the people, had been completed sixty years earlier. Zechariah’s actions of breaking the staffs symbolize the people’s breaking of the covenant. Also striking is the matter of his wages: he was paid thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave, and promptly threw the money into the Temple as a sign that God had been rejected. In the Gospels, Judas was paid the same fee for having betrayed Christ, and threw it onto the Temple floor after realizing the evil he had done.

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

The Call to Wholehearted Faithfulness

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much for this day and thank you for every day. Gosh, Lord, our God! There is always, always, even in the midst of brokenness, even in the midst of suffering, even in the face of death, there is always something to give you thanks for. If we only had the ears to hear and the eyes to see, there is always something, Lord God, that you continue to pour out on us. And that is your Grace. That is your Love. And you never forget us. Help us to never forget you. Help us to not be blind to your high call. And help us to not only open our ears and open our eyes to hear and to see, but help us to open our mouths to praise you and to build the people around us up. Help us to be the kind of people who encourage those who are nearest to us today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”