Era 9: Return

Introduction to RETURN (with Jeff Cavins)

I am not going to write these notes in YELLOW since it you wouldn’t be able to read them even if you had the vision of a hawk 😁


Introduction:

The NARRATIVE BOOKS in this Era are The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS are Zechariah, Haggai, Esther, and Malachi


  • 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

  • BUT…

  • 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

  • BUT

  • 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

  • BUT…

  • 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

  • BUT…

  • 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

  • BUT…

  • 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…

  • NEW TEMPLE

  • 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!!

  • SO…

  • 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

  • NOPE!!

  • 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

  • AND YET…

  • 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 Nehemia

  • 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

  • Haggai

  • Zechariah

  • Malachi

  • Malichi 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

  • BUT…

  • 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

  • BUT…

  • 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

  • BUT…

  • When you are IN the story, DO NOT THINK OF IT THAT WAY

  • All you can think of is that LIFE IS A MESS

  • OR

  • 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

  • In sickness

  • In health

  • 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