Hope in a hopeless place- Tuesday, 26th week in ordinary time- Zechariah 8:20-23
The book of Zechariah captures the effort of Zechariah, the prophet and his struggle to restore a dispirited community into action. The first batch of people had come back to Jerusalem after a long exile in Babylon with great expectation of a glorious future. The reality however was quite different. The city of Jerusalem was decimated; its population was poor and struggling to survive. This was not the only challenge as there was the emotional loss to be dealt with. Most of those who returned still had their relatives in exile and separation was a hard reality to deal with. In all of this, Zechariah writes to communicate God’s promise of a convent resorted.
Chapter eight contains of promises for the future. Zechariah wanted to present a positive vision for the people. This vision had to encompass the entire community; from the older folk sitting in the streets to the children playing.
Why so? Many families with young children would not have risked the arduous journey back to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile. They chose rather to stay back in Babylon, in the land of exile. Also among those who stayed back, sickness and poverty had taken its toll. Hence the vision of Jerusalem with its happy children was intended to create a positive vision for the future of the community.
But this was not the only vision Zechariah had. The belief of the Jews was that all nations would prostrate before God in Jerusalem and this would be the international capital. So, Zechariah returns to the theme of the Gentiles. He pictures a situation in which the well-being and success of Jerusalem will become international news and people hearing this would flock to Jerusalem. The ancient vision of Abraham would take root through these; God’s chosen people who have returned.
Zechariah had no easy task; for that matter none of the prophets did. While the prophets of the pre-exilic period had the unpleasant task of delivering warnings of destruction because of the people’s infidelity, the prophets of the post exilic period like Zechariah, had to bring hope in a hopeless place. The truth about the prophets is that they had heavy burdens to carry to a people who quickly forgot the great mercies that God had done. In all of this, the prophets continued to communicate God’s eternal word and did not pander to human demands.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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