Today’s First Reading from the Liturgy of the Hours comes from the Old Testament book of Zechariah. It is a prophetic book filled with visions and mysterious characters like those we find in apocalyptic literature. Let’s break it open. The book begins with a Vision of God’s horsemen and the exilic cry of the community is heard through the angel of the Lord: ‘ O Lord of hosts, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which you have angry these 70 years?” (Zech 1:12) In response the Lord of Hosts shows compassion and promises prosperity, protection and a return to the land of their fathers. The exiled community is permitted to return from their long captivity in Babylon and begins to rebuild their temple and restore the community and its worship. But during the rebuilding, attitudes of doubt and criticism of toward the religious and political leadership hinder the difficult process of restoration. Criticism and suspicion impedes and finally stalls the construction of the temple. Has this ever happened in your experience? A new project begins with great fervor and a sense of mission only to be overtaken by doubting or criticism that damages the community’s spirit and sometimes leads to delays and cancellations?
Chapter 3 addresses these difficulties. Our main characters for this discussion of Chapter 3 are: Zechariah, son of Berechiah: Prophet, of a priestly family; Joshua: high priest; Satan: at this point in history, an angel in the service of God; and the Interpreting Angels. Zechariah 3:2 reads “Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” The questions from the Lord refers to Joshua, one purified through fire and made clean. Through his office as high priest, representative of the community, all are purged of their sins and have a fresh start. Joshua’s life, the office of high priest and the lives of the community are to be consecrated – offered to God. Why is this vision needed? The vision defends Joshua and calls the new community to have confidence in him and his office. Through this vision and the ones that follow, the Israelites heed the Lord’s call to believe. Encouragement replaces criticism and the paralysis caused by doubt and suspicion is replaced with new hope and trust. Support structures of leadership and institutions are given another chance.
In many ways we live in a world of exile. Things we once knew are changing or have been destroyed. We live in a world of transition, uncertainty and instability politically, economically and at times spiritually. Sometimes we ask these same questions: ”Where is our God and when will he answer our cries ?” “Which institutions we can count on?” “Who will lead us?” What are we called to return to? These are human questions. The book of Zechariah calls us toward encouragement, hope and trust in our efforts of rebuilding and restoring in our own lives. It calls us to take another look at what structures and institutions may serve the rebuilding efforts. It calls us to a greater faith in our Creator who responds with compassion to our cries and who walks through the rebuilding with us! Which of these questions have you asked? How has God responded?