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 36, 1-23

The people of the land then took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and proclaimed him king of Jerusalem in succession to his father.

Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for three months in Jerusalem.

The king of Egypt deposed him in Jerusalem and imposed a levy of a hundred talents of silver and one talent of gold on the country.

The king of Egypt then made his brother Eliakim king of Judah and Jerusalem, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. Carrying off his brother Jehoahaz, Necho took him to Egypt.

Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what is displeasing to Yahweh his God.

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked him, loaded him with chains and took him to Babylon.

To Babylon Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the objects belonging to the Temple of Yahweh and put them in his palace in Babylon.

The rest of the history of Jehoiakim, the shameful things that he did and what happened to him in consequence, these are recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. His son Jehoiachin succeeded him.

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what is displeasing to Yahweh.

At the turn of the year, King Nebuchadnezzar sent for him and had him taken to Babylon, with the valuables belonging to the Temple of Yahweh, and made his brother Zedekiah king of Judah and Jerusalem.

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem.

He did what is displeasing to Yahweh his God. He did not listen humbly to the prophet Jeremiah who spoke for Yahweh.

Furthermore, he rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear allegiance to him by God. He became stubborn, and obstinately refused to return to Yahweh, God of Israel.

Furthermore, all the leaders of Judah, the priests and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple of Yahweh which he himself had consecrated in Jerusalem.

Yahweh, God of their ancestors, continuously sent them word through his messengers because he felt sorry for his people and his dwelling,

but they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until Yahweh's wrath with his people became so fierce that there was no further remedy.

So against them he summoned the king of the Chaldaeans and he put their young men to the sword within the very building of their Temple, not sparing young man or girl, or the old and infirm; he put them all at his mercy.

All the things belonging to the Temple of God, whether large or small, the treasures of the Temple of Yahweh, the treasures of the king and his officials, everything he took to Babylon.

He burned down the temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces to the ground and destroyed everything of value in it.

And those who had escaped the sword he deported to Babylon, where they were enslaved by him and his descendants until the rise of the kingdom of Persia,

to fulfil Yahweh's prophecy through Jeremiah: Until the country has paid off its Sabbaths, it will lie fallow for all the days of its desolation -- until the seventy years are complete.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia -- to fulfil the word of Yahweh through Jeremiah -- Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom:

'Cyrus king of Persia says this, "Yahweh, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up." '


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The history of the last four kings of Judah rushes towards the end as the Chronicler recounts it in a unified way: it is the generation that goes into exile and also that listens to the invitation of Cyrus to return to Jerusalem. The narrative opens with mentioning the short reign of Jehoahaz; only three months. Nothing is said with respect to the parallel account in the second book of Kings. Then comes Eliakim, who “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, his God.” He was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and deported in chains to Babylon. The whole house of David was drifting ever more away from the faith of the fathers and thus was led into exile. Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah as king, instead of Eliakim. He too, however “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, his God.” He did not listen to the prophet Jeremiah, sent by the Lord, nor did he have the foresight to “humble himself” before Nebuchadnezzar “who had made him swear by God.” He, notes the chronicler, “stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD, the God of Israel.” Hardening of the heart and deafness to the word of the Lord and of his prophets are continually recurrent themes - to the ruin of believers. The example of the king was also followed by "all leading priests and the people” (v. 14). However the Chronicler notes that God is not passively witnessing the infidelity of his people: he “sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling-place” (v. 15). This story is repeated constantly. The pages of the Scripture continue to show God's compassion on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the obstinacy of believers in betraying the Lord. Bitterly the Chronicler reports: “But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets” (v. 16). Jesus, who knew well the story of Israel, reminded his listeners of this long history of deafness, which resulted in the decision to kill the same Word of the Father who became flesh. It's a story that continues today in the martyrdom of many Christians, who even at the cost of life do not cease to preach the love of God. The Lord knows that if his word is accepted, the Prince of evil and his silly minions are defeated and driven away. Otherwise a fall into slavery is inevitable. This is what happened to the people of Israel when they chose to remain deaf to the warnings of the Lord. The condemnation materialized in the invasion by the Babylonians, with the consequent exile of the survivors. The land of Israel was emptied of its inhabitants and its assets, as Isaiah prophesied to Hezekiah, “17Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord” (2 K 20:16-17). But God's mercy is greater even than the sinfulness of his children. Cyrus, king of Persia, was sent by God to proclaim deliverance to the Israelites: “Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up” (v. 23). The God of the Fathers is the Lord of history, that of Israel and of all peoples. It is the only story that - through the mission of the people of Israel and of the Church - leads to the sole end: the entry of all peoples into the heavenly Jerusalem.