"Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses to dwell in; plant gardens, and eat their fruits." Jeremiah 29:4-5
This Prophet Jeremiah sent a letter from Jerusalem to the remaining elders who were exiled to Babylon.
This letter was addressed to the priests, the prophets and all the captives who were exiled by King Nebuchadnezzar.
Jeremiah writes, "This was after King Jeconiah and the Queen Mother, the courtiers, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans and the skilled workmen had left Jerusalem. Delivered in Babylon by Elasah, son of Shaphan, and by Germariah, son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah, king of Judah, sent to the King of Babylon" Jeremiah 29:1-3
Notice that the King of Judah, King Jeconiah is listed first and then the Queen Mother! The King reigned for only three months but he did what was not pleasing before the Lord. Most of the Kings of Israel were not faithful which is why they were exiled to Babylon.
What is it that God was wanting to say to the People of God living in exile? To "build houses to dwell in, plant gardens, and eat their fruits. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. There you must increase in number, not decrease. Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the Lord, for upon its welfare depends your own."
Jeremiah 29:16 has this to say, "Thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on David's throne, and all the people who remain in this city, your brethren who did not go with you into exile; thus says the Lord of hosts: I am sending against them sword, famine and pestilence. I will make them like rotten figs, too bad to be eaten. I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, astonishment, ridicule, and reproach to all the nations among which I will banish them. For they did cot listen to my words, says the Lord, though I kept sending them my servants the prophets, only to have them go unheeded, says the Lord."
When we see the conditions the people of God was having to deal with, this provides us today hope that no matter how difficult things are, God is with us.
Isaiah 51:14 states, "The oppressed shall soon be released; they shall not die and go down into the pit, nor shall they want for bread."
Jesus is the one whom liberates his people through a new and everlasting Covenant. Isaiah 61:1-3 states, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness in place of morning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit. They will be called oaks of justice, planted by the Lord to show his glory."
This is a great message for Advent and Christmas because Jesus is the Bread of life. He is the Savior of the world. For the exiles Jesus gives the foundation that we stand. He is our Rock, giving us the Church to set the captives free.
We are living today as exiles, we are pilgrims living in a strange land. So, as God's people, the Catholic Church, let us build our houses and plant our crops, and eat the produce of the land. We are not a people who believe in the "gospel" of wealth such as some of our Protestant friends believe, but to be responsible stewards of the earth.
Let us live out our faith in the face of war, famine, and pestilence being a sign for others in troubled times. Where King Jeconiah was short lived and displeasing to the Lord, Our Lord Jesus Christ is without end and His Queen Mother is our spiritual Mother as well. What a joy to remember as exiles living in a strange land, to know that the Kingdom of God is in our midst, in every Catholic Church around the world, in the hearts of all the faithful.
Advent and Christmas reminds us of our ultimate future. God bless you all.
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