Memory of the Poor

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Chronicles 13, 1-23

In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah became king of Judah

and reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Micaiah daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. When war broke out between Abijah and Jeroboam,

Abijah took the field with an army of four hundred thousand picked warriors, while Jeroboam took the field against him with eight hundred thousand picked warriors.

Abijah took position on Mount Zemaraim, in the highlands of Ephraim. 'Jeroboam and all Israel,' he cried, 'listen to me!

Do you not know that Yahweh, God of Israel, has given eternal sovereignty of Israel to David and his sons by an inviolable covenant?

Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, the slave of Solomon son of David, rose in revolt against his master.

Worthless men, scoundrels, rallied to him, proving too strong for Rehoboam son of Solomon, as Rehoboam was then inexperienced and timid and unable to resist them.

And now you propose to resist Yahweh's sovereignty as exercised by the sons of David because there is a great number of you and you have the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods!

Have you not driven out the priests of Yahweh, the sons of Aaron and the Levites, to make priests of your own like the peoples of foreign countries? Anyone who comes with a bull and seven rams to get himself consecrated can become priest of these gods that are no gods.

But for our part, our God is Yahweh, and we have not abandoned him; our priests are sons of Aaron who minister to Yahweh, and those who serve are Levites;

morning after morning, evening after evening, they present burnt offerings and perfumed incense to Yahweh, they put the bread of permanent offering on the clean table and nightly light the lamps on the golden lamp-stand; for we keep the decree of Yahweh our God, although you have abandoned him.

See how God is with us, at our head, and his priests with trumpets to sound the alarm against you! Israelites, do not make war on Yahweh, God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed.'

Now Jeroboam had sent a party round to ambush them from the rear; thus the main force confronted Judah and the ambush lay to their rear.

And when Judah looked round, they found themselves being attacked from front and rear. They called on Yahweh, the priests sounded the trumpets,

and the men of Judah raised the war cry and, as they raised the cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.

So the Israelites fled before Judah, because God had given Judah the upper hand,

and Abijah and his army inflicted a great slaughter on them: five hundred thousand of Israel's picked men fell, killed.

So the Israelites were humbled on that occasion, while the Judaeans won, since they had relied on Yahweh, God of their ancestors.

Abijah pursued Jeroboam, taking from him the towns of Bethel with its dependencies, Jeshanah with its dependencies and Ephron with its dependencies,

nor did Jeroboam regain strength during Abijah's lifetime. Eventually Yahweh struck him and he died,

but Abijah grew stronger than ever; he married fourteen wives and fathered twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters.

The rest of the history of Abijah, his conduct and his sayings, are recorded in the midrash of the prophet Iddo.

When Abijah fell asleep with his ancestors, he was buried in the City of David; his son Asa succeeded him. In his time the country was at peace for ten years.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The passage deals with the story of Abijah, son of Rehoboam, who reigned from 913 to 910 B.C. The Chronicler begins the story with the account of the war against Jeroboam. The forces lined up in battle are definitely unequal: the warriors of the North are double the force of the reign of Judah. Nonetheless, Abijah addresses authoritatively his enemy Jeroboam and his large army. Standing on Mount Zemariam, which is in the highlands of Ephraim at the northern border of Benjamin’s territory, near Bethel (see Js 18:22), Abijah, standing and in a loud voice, recalls Jeroboam and his people of the Covenant God made with the house of David: “Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel for ever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” (v. 5). He reminds them that rebelling is against God’s plan; indeed they exploited Rehoboam’s inexperience and caused division. Yet– Abijah warns them – fighting against Judah means fighting against God Himself. And he adds, addressing directly the soldiers of Jeroboam’s army: “And now you think that you can withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made as gods for you?” (v. 8). Furthermore Abijah points out that the priests and Levites have left them and they are abandoning the cult of the true God. How can they think to be helped in the battle by the new gods, made by Jeroboam’s own hands? Judah’s people, instead, - Abijah goes on – have not forsaken God, they keep on worshipping Him in Jerusalem by burning holocausts twice a day, displaying the showbread on the pure table, and burning the lamps of the golden lamp stand evening after evening. It is Judah the one true Israel and God is on his side. Abijah underlines the contrast by the opposition between “we” and “you”: we follow God’s liturgical prescriptions, you are the unfaithful ones. Faithfulness to the cult means being loyal to the Covenant with the Lord. Though remaining Israelites, the people of the northern tribes, have become apostates, rebels who are not battling against Judah, but against the Lord Himself (v. 12). Yet Jeroboam does not listen to Abijah’s words; indeed, while Abijah is still speaking, he start ambushing him and his warriors, he comes at them from the rear. When Abijah sees he is surrounded, he does not flee. Trusting to God, he makes the warriors react and cry out to the Lord and the priests sound the trumpets. Just as Moses said to his people when they went to war (Num 10:9) and Jericho was defeated in the same way (Jos 6). A religious response constitutes the true reply to the attack, not an armed reaction. The Lord Himself punishes Jeroboam and his army for the apostasy they committed. The southern people are victorious because they rely (v. 18) on the Lord, the God of their fathers. After the battle, the Chronicler reports that Abijah seized some cities and towns in the southern part of the northern kingdom, among them Bethel. We may wonder why Abijah does reunite Israel under his reign after such an astounding victory. It is not easy to understand. The two kingdoms cannot be reunited only by means of a military conquest. The northern tribes are apostate; first of all they have to change their minds. Only a conversion of their hearts can restore the destroyed alliance.