Sunday Vigil

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Chronicles 32, 1-33

After these loyal actions, Sennacherib king of Assyria advanced and invaded Judah, and laid siege to the fortified towns, intending to demolish them.

Hezekiah, realising that Sennacherib's advance was the preliminary to an attack on Jerusalem,

consulted his officers and warriors about sealing off the waters of the springs outside the city, and they supported him.

So a large number of people were called out to block all the springs and cut off the watercourse flowing through the country. 'Why', they said, 'should the kings of Assyria find plenty of water when they arrive?'

Acting with determination, he also repaired all the damaged parts of the wall, built towers on it, constructed a second wall on the outer side, strengthened the Millo of the City of David and made quantities of missiles and shields.

He then appointed generals to command the people, summoned them to him in the square by the city gate and spoke as follows to encourage them,

'Be strong and brave; do not be afraid or tremble when you face the king of Assyria and the whole horde he brings with him, for there are more on our side than on his.

He has only human strength, but we have Yahweh our God to help us and fight our battles.' The people took heart at the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

Next, Sennacherib king of Assyria, who was then besieging Lachish with all his forces, sent his representatives to Jerusalem, to Hezekiah king of Judah, and all Judah at Jerusalem, with the following message,

'Sennacherib king of Assyria says this, "What gives you the confidence to remain in the fortress of Jerusalem?

Isn't Hezekiah deluding you, only to condemn you to die of famine and thirst, when he says: Yahweh our God will save us from the King of Assyria's clutches?

Isn't Hezekiah the very man who has suppressed his high places and altars, and given the order to Judah and to Jerusalem: You must worship before one altar and on that alone offer incense?

Don't you know what I and my ancestors have done to all the peoples of the other countries? Have the national gods of those countries had the slightest success in saving their countries from my clutches?

Of all the gods of those nations whom my ancestors devoted to destruction, which one has been able to save his people from my clutches, for your god to be able to save you from my clutches?

Do not let Hezekiah mislead you. Do not let him delude you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to save his people from me or from my ancestors' clutches. No more will your god be able to save you from my clutches." '

And his representatives said a great deal more, maligning Yahweh God, and his servant Hezekiah.

He also wrote a letter to insult Yahweh, God of Israel, maligning him as follows, 'Just as the national gods of the other countries could not save their peoples from my clutches, so Hezekiah's god cannot save his people from my clutches.'

They then shouted loudly in the Judaean language to the people of Jerusalem on the ramparts to frighten and confuse them, in the hope of capturing the city,

maligning the God of Jerusalem as though he were one of the man-made gods of other peoples in the world.

Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed and cried out to Heaven about this,

and Yahweh sent an angel who destroyed every warrior, commander and officer in the king of Assyria's camp. So he had to retire shamefacedly to his own country and when he went into the temple of his god, some of his own sons there struck him down with the sword.

So Yahweh saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the clutches of Sennacherib king of Assyria and of everyone else, and gave them peace on every side.

Many people then brought gifts to Yahweh in Jerusalem and valuable presents to Hezekiah king of Judah; from then on, all the other nations held him in high esteem.

About then Hezekiah fell ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to Yahweh, who heard him and granted him a sign.

But Hezekiah made no return for the benefit which he had received; he became proud and brought retribution on himself and on Judah and Jerusalem.

Then, however, Hezekiah did humble himself in his pride, and so did the inhabitants of Jerusalem; as a result of which, Yahweh's retribution did not overtake them during Hezekiah's lifetime.

Hezekiah enjoyed immense riches and honour. He built himself treasuries for gold, silver, precious stones, spices, jewels and every kind of desirable object,

as well as storehouses for his returns of grain, new wine and olive oil, and stalls for all kinds of cattle and pens for the flocks.

He also provided himself with donkeys in addition to his immense wealth of flocks and herds, since God had made him immensely wealthy.

It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them straight down on the west side of the City of David. Hezekiah succeeded in all that he undertook,

although when the envoys were sent to him by the rulers of Babylon to enquire about the extraordinary thing which had taken place in the country, God left him alone to test him and discover what lay in his heart.

The rest of the history of Hezekiah, and his deeds of faithful love, are recorded in the Vision of the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz, in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.

Then Hezekiah fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried in the upper section of the tombs of the sons of David. All Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem paid him honours at his death. His son Manasseh succeeded him.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Chronicler opens the chapter with a sentence that provides the key to understanding the entire story: “After these things and these acts of faithfulness, King Sennacherib of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself” (v. 1). The invasion of the kingdom of Judah after such an important commitment to religious reform is shocking. This is not a punishment of God, but a test of the king’s faithfulness. At the end of this chapter the Chronicler writes: “God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart” (v. 31). No doubt the faithfulness of Hezekiah and his commitment to religious reform defend him from the assault of Assyria. While the invasion of his reign is being prepared, Hezekiah works for the security of Jerusalem. He is a worthy successor of David, a real defensor civitatis (Trans: defender of the city), as some great Christian bishops will be called. He responds to the meaning of his name: “The Lord protects.” Therefore he strengthens the walls of Jerusalem and builds new fortifications, then locks the springs of water to prevent the troops of Sennacherib from refreshment. Then he gathers the people in the town square and talks to their hearts: “Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and the entire horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him” (v. 7). Faced with the great Assyria, Hezekiah encourages his people, reminding them of God's power that accompanies them: “With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles” (v. 8). Hezekiah's words recall the passage in Isaiah about Emmanuel – “God with us” (Is 7:14) - and the other passage from the story of Elisha: “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them” (2 K 6:16). Sennacherib, who puts his trust in an “arm of flesh”, is actually cursed according to what Jeremiah says: “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals, and make mere flesh their strength” (Jer 17:5). Like the Egyptian, the Assyrian is also “human, and not God; their horses are flesh, and not spirit” (Is 31:3). The speech of the king touches the heart: “The people" - concludes the Chronicler - "were encouraged by the words of King Hezekiah of Judah.” In fact, the threat from the Assyrians is averted. The messengers sent by the Assyrian king to Jerusalem show the arrogance of the powerful who, trusting only in their strength, despise faith and mock God himself. Sennacherib sends this word to the people of Israel: “Your God should be able to save you from my hand?” (v. 14), and he warns them against the words of Hezekiah: “Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to save his people from my hand or from the hand of my ancestors. How much less will your God save you out of my hand!” (v. 15). It is the temptation to discredit the Word of God and his prophets which is always luring believers, wearing down their faith and casting down their hearts. The psalmist writes, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed” (Ps 2.2). The events that followed are recounted succinctly. But the prayer of the king was decisive: “Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed because of this and cried to heaven” (v. 20). The Lord's answer was immediate: he sent his exterminator angel into the camp of the Assyrians in Lachish, and their destruction was complete. The setback for Sennacherib was burning: he had to go home in shame. Shortly after, his sons killed him during the prayer in the temple. Sennacherib had questioned the ability of the Lord to deliver Hezekiah and the people from his hand. Now, the facts show the opposite: God freed the little people of Judah from the great Assyrian army. From that day Judah enjoyed great peace. But Hezekiah became ill, the fruit of his pride. Subsequently the king listened to the Word of God and repented; his repentance moved God to compassion and the punishment was removed.