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

Jeremiah 29, 1-32

This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to those who were left of the elders in exile, to the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had deported from Jerusalem to Babylon.

This was after King Jeconiah had left Jerusalem with the queen mother, the eunuchs, the chief men of Judah and Jerusalem, and the blacksmiths and metalworkers.

The letter was entrusted to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah had sent to Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. The letter said:

'Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this to all the exiles deported from Jerusalem to Babylon:

Build houses, settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce;

marry and have sons and daughters; choose wives for your sons, find husbands for your daughters so that these can bear sons and daughters in their turn; you must increase there and not decrease.

Work for the good of the city to which I have exiled you; pray to Yahweh on its behalf, since on its welfare yours depends.

For Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: Do not be deceived by the prophets who are with you or by your diviners; do not listen to the dreams you have,

since they prophesy lies to you in my name. I have not sent them, Yahweh declares.

For Yahweh says this: When the seventy years granted to Babylon are over, I shall intervene on your behalf and fulfil my favourable promise to you by bringing you back to this place.

Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, Yahweh declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

When you call to me and come and pray to me, I shall listen to you.

When you search for me, you will find me; when you search wholeheartedly for me,

I shall let you find me (Yahweh declares. I shall restore your fortunes and gather you in from all the nations and wherever I have driven you, Yahweh declares. I shall bring you back to the place from which I exiled you).

'Since you say: Yahweh has raised up prophets for us in Babylon-

this is what Yahweh says about the king now occupying the throne of David and all the people living in this city, your brothers who did not go with you into exile:

Yahweh Sabaoth says this: I am now going to send them sword, famine and plague; I shall make them like rotten figs, so bad as to be uneatable.

I shall pursue them with sword, famine and plague. I shall make them an object of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse, a thing of horror, scorn and derision to all the nations where I have driven them,

because they have refused to listen to my words, Yahweh declares, although I have persistently sent them all my servants the prophets; but they would not listen, Yahweh declares.

But all you exiles, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon, listen to Yahweh's word!

'This is what Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who prophesy lies to you in my name: I shall hand them over now to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon who will put them to death before your very eyes.

This curse, based on their fate, will be used by all the exiles of Judah in Babylon: May Yahweh treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, roasted alive by the king of Babylon,

because they have done a scandalous thing in Israel, committing adultery with their neighbour's wives and speaking lying words in my name without orders from me. I know all the same and am witness to it, Yahweh declares.'

'And to Shemaiah of Nehelam you will speak as follows:

Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this: Since you, on your own initiative, have sent a letter to all the people in Jerusalem, to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah (and to all the priests), saying:

Yahweh has appointed you priest in place of the priest Jehoiada to keep order in the Temple of Yahweh, to put any crazy fellow posing as a prophet in the stocks and collar,

why then have you not disciplined Jeremiah of Anathoth, now posing as a prophet to you?

Why, he has even sent us a message in Babylon, saying: It will be a long time. Build houses, settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.'. . .

(Now, after the priest Zephaniah had read this letter to the prophet Jeremiah),

the word of Yahweh came then to Jeremiah as follows,

'Send this message to all the exiles, "This is what Yahweh says about Shemaiah of Nehelam: Since Shemaiah has prophesied to you without my sending him, and since he has caused you to rely on what is false

for that reason, Yahweh declares, I shall punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants; no male member of his family will survive among this people to see the happiness that I will bestow on my people (Yahweh declares, since he has preached rebellion against Yahweh)." '


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The prophet Jeremiah writes a letter to the Jews exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon. In the letter he reveals what the Word of the Lord has to say about their situation and their future. He is in Jerusalem, where the prophets and political leaders close to King Zedekiah continue to tell the people what they want to hear, that is, that the tiny and worn-out kingdom of Judah will be able to defeat the great Nebuchadnezzar. Completely focused on pleasing the people, they continued to delude them. Moreover, even among the deportees there were false prophets who proclaimed that the end of their captivity was near and they would soon return home. Jeremiah is the one who raises his voice and interprets history in a right and truthful way, that is not what people want to hear but what the Lord tells him. God’s plan is clear: a time of exile has begun, which will last seventy years. Hope, therefore, does not mean claiming that in a short time everything will be changed. It means communicating what the Lord was saying through his prophet. Jeremiah announces that, once seventy years have passed, the time to return to Jerusalem will come. Only then would God’s plans come to fruition, “plans for your welfare and not for harm;” only then would “a future with hope” come for all (v. 11). We have to obey the Lord and find in his Word the guide who will show us the path to follow through history. Believers do not think about the future in terms of their own desires, as if it only depended on their will and their plans. Believers do not think about building a future for themselves, but they trust in the Lord and live in the present according to the teachings of his word, sure in the hope of salvation that the Lord has promised to the entire people. This is why Jeremiah speaks about the necessity of seeking the Lord. He assures his listeners that those who seek the Lord and call on him with all their heart will find him. The Lord himself assures us: I will let myself be found. The present of men and women is the same as God’s present. And the future is just a continuation of the present, guided by the Lord. Jesus is the definitive Word of God who becomes a clear light for our steps. We could say that the Holy Scriptures, and the Gospel in particular, are prefigured by Jeremiah’s Letter to the exiles in Babylon. The ancient Fathers used to say that the Scriptures are love letters that God has sent us. Let us listen to them, and not only will we understand the present, we will build a future of peace for all people.