This Era lasted from 538 BC to 167 BC
Fun Fact #1: The World Powers in this era are Persia and then Greece
Fun Fact #2: Famous secular persons who lived in this era included Cyrus the Great of Persia, Buddha, Confucius, Plato, Alexander the Great, Socrates, and Aristotle among others
Fun Fact #3: The Septuagint began around 283 BC (Do you remember when Fr. Mike explained what the Septuagint is? Go back and read Day 193: The Book of Tobit in The Bible in a Year Study Guide to refresh your memory 😁)
Fun Fact #4: The Great Wall of China was completed around 206 BC
We have left behind The Exile and all those prophets
Now, we enter The Return
Brighter days are ahead!
Hopefully people have paid attention to the COLORS of The Great Adventure Bible Timeline
They are a mnemonic device to help you remember the different eras
In Era 8: The Exile, Judah was singing the BABY BLUES
And now, in Era 9: The Return, SUNNY DAYS ARE AHEAD so YELLOW
It’s so helpful to journey chronologically
In The Exile we started with the Kings and Chronicles that LED into the exile
Then we heard the prophets tell us what was about to come
BUT THE STORY IS NOT OVER!!
We have Jeremiah and those left behind and they are going to die there in Egypt
We have the other Jews who are in Babylon and they will NOT BE LEFT BEHIND
It has been pretty rough in the exile
It lasted for 70 years in Babylon
During that period, a lot of things developed
The Temple was destroyed
The exile was the rise of the synagogues
This was also the rise of the Pharisees, who were the teachers
The kitchen table really becomes the place where sacrifice is realized in a deeper way since they don’t have the Temple
So all of the Kosher rules are starting to develop in Judaism during that time which we hear about when Jesus comes and dwells among us
When they leave exile, it should remind us of something
It should remind us of THE ISRAELITES COMING OUT OF EGYPT
This whole pattern of EXILE AND RETURN is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT
EXILE AND RETURN
We see it in Exodus
We see it in Judges
We see it in this era of Return
We also see it in the New Testament in The Gospel of Luke
Jesus is going to announce the GREAT RETURN FROM EXILE
The story he uses is in Luke Ch 15 THE PRODIGAL SON 🤯🤯🤯
Not only is this a pattern in the Old Testament
IT IS A PATTERN IN OUR OWN LIVES AS WELL!!
THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN FROM IT!!
IT IS A VERY EXCITING TIME PERIOD!!
For a lot of people journeying in The Bible in a Year a common question is, “What is the role of the synagogue vs. the role of the Temple?”
“How did those Kosher laws rise to prominence?”
We had these kings and others who were faithful or unfaithful
The dietary laws weren’t mentioned often
More often, we heard about WHOM they were worshiping
Were they COMMITTING ADULTERY?
OR were they WORSHIPING THE LORD GOD IN THE TEMPLE?
This era is a SHIFT in Judaism that may look more familiar to us while they are in Babylon
They didn’t have sacrifices of the animals in the Temple, which we are not very familiar with
They go from that to a synagogue, which is more of a community center
A place to receive instruction
A place to fellowship with each other
In church today, we have a COMBINATION
We have the place of SACRIFICE which is the ALTAR for the EUCHARIST
The church is also a GATHERING PLACE
Where people come together for FELLOWSHIP, CATECHESIS, LEARNING, AND FAITH FORMATION
A number of other things also take place
So when we leave the exile and come into the return, it is important to realize that there is a SHIFT in world power
During the 70 years of Babylonian exile, it was Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians that were the big bad guys on the black
Then comes the Persians, led by Cyrus the Great
Cyrus was the one who the Lord MOVED to ALLOW the exiled to go back to Jerusalem and REBUILD THE TEMPLE
Not everybody went back
There were a number of people who found exile to be quite comfortable
THIS IS THE DANGER FOR US TODAY!!
“I’m away from the Lord, and kind of comfortable.”
That’s a DANGEROUS THING when you feel that way
God MOVED on Cyrus to allow them to come back and even to FINANCE this
That should remind you of Israel coming out of Egypt and the Egyptians gave them gold and precious commodities
So here we have REPETITION
For those of us who were living back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, you might remember something in the news that pertains to this story
The name CYRUS in Hebrew is “Koresh” (Oh boy….😞)
A number of years ago, there was a man in Waco, Texas who thought a lot of himself
He thought of himself as King David the conqueror
He thought of himself as KORESH the RESTORER
He put those names together and came up with the name DAVID KORESH
He was the leader of a cult called the Branch Davidians
IT ENDED IN DISASTER
It was interesting how that King Cyrus came into American History in a way
So after 70 years, they will come back to Judah in THREE WAVES
JUST LIKE THEY HAD THREE WAVES OF EXILE
Daniel in the first wave
Ezekiel in the third one
The third exile was in 587 BC and Jerusalem was destroyed
So now we are going to reverse that
The FIRST RETURN will be in 538 BC
The SECOND RETURN will be in 525 BC
The THIRD RETURN will be in 444 BC
You may not remember those dates
YOU MUST REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENS IN EACH OF THOSE RETURNS
In the FIRST RETURN, you have Zerubbabel
What does he do?
HE REBUILDS THE TEMPLE!!
It is not nearly as beautiful as Solomon’s Temple
This will be the Temple that Herod refurbishes later when Jesus shows up on the scene
In the SECOND RETURN, you have Ezra
Ezra is going to revitalize the people by TEACHING THE WORD OF GOD
The THIRD RETURN, we have Nehemiah
We will then see the REBUILDING OF THE WALLS AROUND JERUSALEM
So to recap…
TEACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD
REBUILDING THE WALLS AROUND JERUSALEM
That is what is going to happen in The Return
So remember that, there will be a test 🤪
This takes place over a LONG TIME
So the people had to adapt in exile
There were people who were more comfortable in Babylon
They got used to not having sacrifices to offer
To not having to go to the Temple
To not having to pay much attention to the Word of God
So the people who came back may have been FOREIGN to these things
Remember, it was 70 YEARS of exile
By the third wave of return, it has been QUITE A BIT OF TIME
So we are talking about GREAT GREAT GRANDPARENTS were the ones involved in Temple sacrifice before the exile
Here is Zerubbabel who built the Temple
Ezra taught the Word of God
Nehemiah built up the walls of Jerusalem
You would have to be CONVERTED to want to RETURN and have all those things done
As opposed to getting used to where you are and comfortable in exile
The Lord stirred Cyrus to allow them to come back
The Lord stirred the hearts of the people who wanted to return
The two Narrative books to focus on are Ezra and Nehemiah
They cover the SECOND and THIRD return
We will get a play-by-play of the Return
The problems they faced when they returned
The problems they faced when rebuilding the Temple and the walls around Jerusalem
There were hindrances to do the work of the Lord
There was temptation towards SELFISHNESS
“You know what? God’s house is lying in ruins, but I am going to build my OWN castle. I’m going to focus on THAT rather than the HOUSE OF GOD.”
The prophet Malachi calls the people out for that
One of the most interesting things about this period is HOW IT FITS INTO OUR OWN LIVES
There are so many people who are listening right now who may have gone through this and it has been a disaster in their life
Maybe their home burned down
Maybe their spouse left
Maybe they lost children
Maybe they lost a job
Whatever calamity in their life it might be
The question is, “HOW DO YOU REBUILD IN YOUR LIFE?”
When we look at the story of the Return, keeping in mind what St. Paul said in Corinthians, “These things were written for YOU, for YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT.”
What can we take away from the Return if we feel like WE HAVE BEEN IN EXILE or WE HAVE BEEN AWAY FROM THE LORD or OUR LIVES HAVE BEEN DEVASTATED
The key is VERY SIMPLE
Three things are focused on: 1. THE TEMPLE THAT ZERUBBABEL BUILT
How does that relate to us today?
If you are going to RISE FROM THE ASHES then you have to CENTER YOUR LIFE ON THE EUCHARIST, THE SACRAMENTS
Today, the SACRAMENTS AND THE EUCHARIST come from the LITURGY, THE HEART OF THE CHURCH
If we are going to be RESTORED after our life has been SHATTERED, WE HAVE TO BE SACRAMENTAL CHRISTIANS
THANK GOD WE HAVE THAT IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH!!
The second aspect is 2. THE WORD OF GOD
That is what all of us are participating in now in The Bible in a Year
There are a lot of people who are saying, “You know what? I’m being built up. I’m being strengthened. I feel like I have direction and correction and I have a new set of friends.”
They are noticing that the WORD OF GOD IS RESTORING THEM because they know the HEART OF GOD and THE PLAN OF GOD
The third thing is 3. REBUILDING THE WALLS AROUND JERUSALEM
So how does that relate to us today?
In antiquity times, you were not considered a legitimate city unless you had WALLS AROUND THE CITY
So how does that pertain to us today?
THAT IS THE CHURCH!!
YOU NEED THE CHURCH!!
YOU NEED FELLOWSHIP!!
YOU NEED THAT LITURGICAL YEAR!!
YOU NEED LEADERSHIP FROM THE POPE AND THE BISHOPS AND THE PRIESTS!!
When you put these three things together, you have SACRAMENTS, THE WORD OF GOD, AND THE CHURCH
That acts as a sort of tripod TO REBUILD YOUR LIFE
The Return is a time to start thinking about YOUR LIFE
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
WHAT ABOUT MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY WHO HAVE BEEN UTTERLY DEVASTATED?
There is a lot going on in the world at any time that would give us reason to believe that there are a lot of people with DEVASTATED LIVES
There may be some people who say that they would take just one or two of those three elements
They don’t know that if they want ALL THE ELEMENTS
When we first read the Return, you would think that EVERYONE would want to go back to Jerusalem
NOT EVERYONE WANTED TO GO BACK!
And even for those who DID GO BACK, there were obstacles!
There were some who wanted to build their OWN house before rebuilding the Temple
Even when they wanted to rebuild the WALLS, some wondered what it would mean to the reigning world powers if they rebuild those walls, maybe it was an act of DEFIANCE, was it an act of separating them and making themselves less conquerable?
Sometimes when we have Bible stories that we think are really straightforward, we realize THIS IS MUCH MORE COMPLICATED
Because this is God working with REAL HUMAN BEINGS IN REAL LIVES
We don’t always just want to do the right thing because it is the right thing
A lot of times, God has to help us get to that point
Using Jesus’ teaching of The Prodigal Son, which is quite an image of EXILE AND RETURN
When we read this story, we think the prodigal son should get a clue
But he didn’t have a clue until he CAME TO HIS SENSES
When he came to his senses and he saw that even his FATHER’S SERVANTS were better off than him, he returned at that point
When we look back at OUR OWN HISTORY, you would think that EVERYONE would want to get in on our Christian faith
In 2000, we had the Great Jubilee with St. John Paul II and people could go to churches all over the world, even Israel, to pray, receive grace
There were still a lot of people who did not come to their senses and they did not change
So we DO see that in our own world today
“There is an open door, do I want to walk through it?”
The prodigal son knew he had a father and he knew things were better there, but he did not know if he could go home
He didn’t know if he WANTED to go home
He got comfortable with his pig trough and hunger
If he was really going to go home, he needed to live under his father’s authority
He would have to live as a SON AGAIN
And he didn't know if he wanted to live as a son again
So the three main characters in The Return are Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah
There are also some ancillary characters like Esther
Here are some things to pay attention to over the next couple of weeks
We have THREE MORE PROPHETS!! (Oh yay 😉)
But don’t worry after these three, we will be DONE with them
These prophets are important during the exile as well as the return
They speak to the people as they are in exile and as they make their return
Malachi is the LAST PROPHET in the Old Testament
Catholic Bibles have Maccabees as the last book in the Old Testament
We will get to that later
There are some really interesting things to read with these prophets
Read Haggai in light of the people have come back to rebuild the Temple and focus on the work of God
Their own SELFISHNESS gets in the way
It will speak to you pretty powerfully
When it comes to Malachi, this book really sets the stage for the Messiah to come
Malachi Ch 3 he says, “I am going to send my messenger to prepare the way before me.”
Malachi Ch 5 he says, “I will send you Elijah the prophet.”
We know in Matthew 11:13, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”
Also in Matthew 17:9-13, go read it
So there is this continuity between the Return in Malachi and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry at the Jordan River with John the Baptist
John the Baptist will play the ROLE of Elijah (NOT REINCARNATION!!)
So there is this BEAUTIFUL RELATIONSHIP between the OLD and the NEW
Also, there is something odd in Malachi 4:1-3, “For behold the day comes burning like an oven when all the arrogant and all the evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them, says the Lord of Hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go forth leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.”
The interesting part is “there will be healing in its wings”
How many of you have seen Orthodox Jews with tassels coming from the four corners of their garments?
Way back in Numbers, Moses reminded the people that they should wear these tassels as a reminder of the Commandments
Those tassels are called Titzits
They are connected to what is called the WING of the prayer shawl
In Hebrew, wing is “kanaph”
HEALING IN ITS WINGS
When we come to the New Testament, we see that people reached out to grab the hem of Jesus’ garment, the kanaph, the place where the Titzit were attached AND THEY WERE HEALED
Malachi is giving us hints of what is going to come, which is BEAUTIFUL
Jesus does come and there is healing in the kanaph (wings) of his garment!
THAT IS AMAZING!!
THAT IS INCREDIBLE!!
We can all picture the Hebrew prayer shawl, which is called the Tallit
We recognize Jesus with healing in his wings
We even remember the woman who said, “If I just but touch the hem of his garment, I’ll be healed.”
This isn’t just a random thing where she is sneaking up on and touching any part of Jesus
But she knew thanks to Malachi that this is where to go for healing, JESUS’ WINGS
HEALING IN HIS WINGS
We haven’t commented a lot on the extra-Biblical things going on at this time
Right at the point that Judah and Israel are rebuilding after exile for 70 years, they need the Sacraments
They need the Word of God
They need the wisdom of the community and the communion of saints
It is during this time that you have great thinking minds like Plato and Socrates and later Aristotle
This was all great
But it reminds us that there is wisdom in the world, yes
THERE IS ONE WHO IS WISDOM
THAT IS JESUS CHRIST
So if you are going to REBUILD YOUR LIFE, JESUS IS THE ONE YOU WANT TO REBUILD YOUR LIFE ON!!
Even here in Christendom now St. John Paul II said, “The two wings by which the soul flies to God is FAITH and REASON.”
Here is the Lord God who has led his chosen people not only from slavery to freedom to kingdom to exile and back and rooted them more deeply in faith, building that up again
At the same time, in the Return era, is the time period of the flourishing of reason
All these things were converging and it could feel like chaos or like there is no rhyme or reason
Like there is no hand of the Lord in it
But looking back, we see that here is what God has done
And this must be also what God is doing in our life
We have 14 days in this era
Then we have the Maccabean Revolt
Here are some last thoughts from Jeff Cavins as we spend the next two weeks in The Return
When you read the story in Salvation History, it is easy to compartmentalize the stories into this period then this period then this period
When you are IN the story, DO NOT THINK OF IT THAT WAY
All you can think of is that LIFE IS A MESS
You can think that IT IS GOING PRETTY GOOD RIGHT NOW
So we need to look at OUR OWN LIVES the way we look at Salvation History and realize that God got a hold of our hearts
Then we went through this and we went through that
AND NOW WE ARE HERE TODAY
SO RECOGNIZE THE MOVING OF THE LORD IN YOUR LIFE!!
YOUR LIFE IS NOT JUST A MESS!
YOUR LIFE IS NOT JUST CONFUSION!!
GOD HAS A PLAN OF SHEER GOODNESS!!
There is a tapestry that is being woven IN YOUR LIFE if you would SLOW DOWN, go to a HOLY HOUR, and just meditate and think what God is doing in your life
The MOVEMENTS of your own heart
The MOVEMENTS of God in your life
DO NOT BE DROWNED BY THE CONFUSION AND THE NOISE
Take some time to look at YOUR OWN LIFE the way we are looking at SALVATION HISTORY
Hopefully people have been reminded of this lesson regularly over 267 days
How do I look at all this with the eyes of faith?
How do I look at this in my life with the eyes of someone who knows who God is and what he thinks of me more and more deeply
I am embracing that
I am being embracing by God
In good times
In bad times
GOD CHOOSES US AND CONTINUES TO UPHOLD US AND SUSTAIN US
These Era introductions are so helpful so be grateful to Fr. Mike and Jeff Cavins
SO PRAY FOR FR. MIKE, JEFF CAVINS, AND EVERYONE AT ASCENSION PRESENTS
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER