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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Build My House

The theme of the weekday readings for the 25th Week in OT Year A is "Build My House". Readings are selected from Ezra, and two minor* prophets who are mentioned in Ezra 5: Haggai and Zechariah. The week starts off with the edict of Cyrus in 538 BC, the end of the exile (Ezra 1:1-6). In this edict, the Emperor calls upon interested Jews** to go back to their land and rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. In Ezra 6:7-20 one finds the edict of Darius (521-485) which reiterates the building of the Temple. He orders that the taxes be used for the financing of the construction and commands that a steady supply of animals be given to the priests to offer as sacrifices offered continually in the temple. Due Darius' support, the temple is rebuilt.

Ephesians 4:1-13 actually continues the theme of building up the Temple of the Lord but from a different perspective, that of the New Testament. The Lord's Body is His Temple. Paul urges the Ephesians to live according to their vocation to holiness, striving at the same time to preserve their unity. The unity of the Body of Christ is based on the oneness

  • of the Body itself
  • of the Spirit that gives it life
  • of the hope to which Christians are called
  • of the Lord who is one
  • of faith
  • of baptism
  • of God, who is Father of all

This unity is not to be contrasted with the diversity of gifts that the Lord has procured for his Church. There are different charisms given to different members of the Church but all these are for the "building up of the Body of Christ." It must be noted that here, Paul uses the language of human growth -- "maturity", "full stature" -- because he is emphasizing the organically vital dimension of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Haggai is mentioned together with Zechariah in Ezra 5 as those prophets who protested against the discontinuation of the rebuilding of the Temple. In Haggai 1:1-8, the prophet attributes the economic difficulties of the Jews to the ruined state of the Temple. The prophecy can be summarized thus: "Build the temple that all may go well with you" (vv. 7-11). In Haggai 2:1-9, the prophet answers those who are saying that the completed Temple looks dismal and that it lacks the glory of the old one. Noteworthy in this prophecy is the reiteration of God's promise "I am with you." There is also the words "One moment yet, a little while" which is echoed in John's Gospel. "A little while" is the period of time which separates present hardship from future glory. Finally, God's future temple will be far more glorious than the first one. This prophecy does not refer to the temple that King Herod will build and which the disciples will be marvellling at. It refers to the Temple of the Lord, His Body. Thus, with Haggai's voice, we hear the announcement of the Church.

Zechariah's prophecy repeats in some ways what Haggai said about God's dwelling among his people. Alluding to the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites in the Desert, he says that God will once more protect His people like a surrounding fire. But God will not only protect His people and exact vengeance on those who have hurt them. He will dwell in their midst, just as He did before (in the Tent of Meeting). The prophecy makes sense if one situates it AFTER the completion of the second temple. The dismal looking temple that the returning Jews managed to finish -- according to this prophecy -- should not trouble them for God's presence among His people is much more important than any temple built for any god whatsoever.

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*"Minor" does not mean "less important". The term refers to the books ascribed to them: these are very short books, so they are called "minor."

**Jews. Technically, "Israel" no longer existed. Only those who were from Judah returned. The exiles of 721 BC are no longer mentioned.

Posted by bible student at 4:54 AM
Categories: Liturgy, Old Testament
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