Friday, June 25, 2010

A Powerful Teaching Moment: Babylonian Exile and Captivity

The Babylonian exile.  We have heard this phrase used often in sermons and some bible classes.  But when did it occur?  How did it happen?  What can we learn from it?  In the first reading for today's liturgy, 2 King 25:1-12, we read a very brief synopsis of the events.  The very heart of the Jewish faith, the very strength of the Jewish people was brought to a seeming end by the invading Babylonian kings over a period of several years.  The Jewish people were broken.  Their spirit was dashed.  What had happened to Yahweh's promises to them?  It would do all Catholics and Christians, especially, as well as others of different religious faiths, to read this historical summary.  Maybe read these verses two or three times.  Plant them in your mind and heart -- to know well a poignant moment in biblical and Jewish history and to experience something of the people's sense of loss.

"The captivity and subsequent return to Israel and rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple are pivotal events in the history of the Jews and Judaism and had a far-reaching impact on the development of Jewish culture and practices (Wikepedia)."  Click the provided link to view a portrait of this historical moment provided in a calendar of the events by Wikepedia.  It will afford you a better sense of the Jewish suffering and rebuilding against all odds.

The issue of importance for us today?  Sense the resulting strengthened faith and the stronger, more determined hope of the Jewish people.  God had promised so much to the Jewish people in Jerusalem.  They marched from the hopes and dreams into a captivity with one over-riding sentiment:  despair.  Yet, it was during these years, as we know now, that they came to know Yahweh was not a God for them only in the Jerusalem Temple.  He was Yahweh with them everywhere.  A new religious experience was developed through the exile and captivity

We might recall these terrible years as we ponder our own modern-day captivities:  a nation imprisoned by two wards helping other nations, a nation terribly reduced by economic greed and now a portion of a nation chained by "black gold" gushing from the bottom of the sea.  Then we might ask ourselves this one question:  Do we have the resilience, the strength that rebuilt the shattered Jewish nation?