Memory of the Church
Reading of the Word of God
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
2 Chronicles 35, 1-26
Josiah then celebrated a Passover to Yahweh in Jerusalem. The Passover victims were slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the first month.
He assigned the priests to their posts, encouraging them to do their duty in the Temple of Yahweh.
Then he said to the Levites, who had understanding for all Israel and were consecrated to Yahweh, 'Put the sacred ark in the Temple built by Solomon son of David, king of Israel. You need not carry it about on your shoulders any more. Now serve Yahweh your God and Israel his people!
Prepare yourselves by families according to your orders, as laid down in the decree of David king of Israel and that of Solomon his son,
and take up positions in the sanctuary corresponding to the family divisions of your brothers the laity, so that there are Levites for each family division.
Slaughter the Passover, sanctify yourselves and prepare it so that your brothers can observe it in the way the word of Yahweh through Moses requires.'
For the laity Josiah provided small livestock, that is, lambs and young goats -- everything for the Passover offerings for all who attended -- to the number of thirty thousand, as well as three thousand bullocks; these were from the king's own possessions.
His officials also made voluntary contributions for the people, the priests and the Levites; and Hilkiah, Zechariah and Jehiel, the chiefs of the Temple of God, gave two thousand six hundred lambs and three hundred bullocks to the priests for the Passover offerings;
while Conaniah, Shemaiah, Nethanel his brother, Hashabiah, Jeiel and Jozabad, the head Levites, provided five thousand lambs and five hundred bullocks as Passover offerings for the Levites.
So the service was arranged, the priests stood in their places and the Levites in their orders as the king had commanded.
Then they slaughtered the Passover victims and while the priests sprinkled the blood as they received it from the Levites, the latter did the skinning.
Next they put the burnt offering aside for presentation to the family divisions of the laity, so that they could offer it to Yahweh in the way prescribed in the Book of Moses; they did the same with the bullocks.
They roasted the Passover victim over an open fire in accordance with the regulation and boiled the consecrated offerings in pots, kettles and pans, which they then distributed to all the laity as quickly as they could.
Afterwards they provided for themselves and the priests, since the Aaronite priests were kept busy till nightfall making the burnt offerings and offering the fat; that was why the Levites prepared the Passover for themselves and for the Aaronite priests.
The Asaphite singers were at their places, in accordance with the command of David and Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun the king's seer; so were the gatekeepers at each gate. Because they could not leave their duties, their brothers the Levites prepared the Passover for them.
So the whole service of Yahweh was arranged that day to celebrate the Passover and to bring burnt offerings on the altar of Yahweh, in accordance with King Josiah's command.
On that occasion the Israelites who were present celebrated the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days.
No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel, nor had any of the kings of Israel ever celebrated a Passover like the one celebrated by Josiah, the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
This Passover was celebrated in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign.
After all this, when Josiah had provided for the Temple, Necho king of Egypt advanced to give battle at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went to intercept him.
Necho however sent him messengers to say, 'Why be concerned about me, king of Judah? I have not come today to attack you; my quarrel is with another dynasty. God has commanded me to move quickly, so keep well clear of the god who is with me!'
But Josiah was not to be deflected from his determination to fight him, and would not listen to Necho's words, which came from the mouth of God. He gave battle in the plain of Megiddo.
The archers shot King Josiah. The king then said to his retainers, 'Take me away; I am badly wounded.'
So his retainers lifted him out of his own chariot, transferred him to one which he had in reserve and brought him to Jerusalem, where he died and was buried in the tombs of his ancestors. All Judah and Jerusalem held mourning for Josiah.
Jeremiah composed a lament for Josiah and all the male and female singers to this day lament Josiah in their dirges; they have made it a rule in Israel; they are recorded in the Lamentations.
The rest of the history of Josiah, his deeds of faithful love conforming to what is prescribed in the Law of Yahweh,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
This story emphasizes the centrality that the celebration of Easter has taken in the life of Israel, as desired by Josiah. The text focuses on the ritual preparations for the Passover sacrifice. First the king urges the priests to carry out their duties zealously and attentively. Then he addresses the Levites, charging them to construct and maintain the temple as well as provide dignified service. In addition to educating the people, their particular task is to restore the Holy Ark in the temple: “He said to the Levites who taught all Israel and who were holy to the Lord, Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon son of David, king of Israel, built; you need no longer carry it on your shoulders. Now serve the Lord your God and his people Israel” (v. 3). The king underlines the “lightness” of the ark: meaning the law. In fact, observance of the Word of God frees Israel from the really heavy yoke of slavery. Jesus will say to his disciples, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30). The radical decision to follow the Lord frees people from the many slaveries imposed both by one’s ego and by the many idols proposed from time to time. The Levites must devote themselves to teaching and preaching, to making the Word of God understandable and alive, as a help in choosing true freedom. The Word of God, in fact, is not a dead letter in a paper. It is alive and accompanies believers as an always new light that illuminates the steps in the journey toward the kingdom. The Levites are also entrusted with a major role in the celebration of Passover, making sure that everything takes place in order and in compliance with the holiness of God and his temple. The description shows a splendid and solemn celebration that tries to harmonize different traditions about animals to offer. But what seems more interesting for the Chronicler is the peculiarity of this Passover celebration organized by Josiah. The king has made of the Passover the most complete expression of Israel's worship. It is a festival that brings together, in a strong communion, king, priests, Levites, and all the people. One could say that it is the highest image of the covenant between God and Israel. Thus Josiah fulfils the promise made by David to Solomon when he said: “Be strong and of good courage, and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished” (l Chr 28:20). And indeed, idolatry had been eradicated, the temple rebuilt, the book of the Law presented to the community, the king and the people were united in covenant with the Lord, and the full liturgical service to Lord was organized. But here again appears the test. The Chronicler writes: “Neco, king of Egypt, went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates.” Josiah, in contrast to Hezekiah, who invoked the Lord's help when he was attacked, not only did not ask for God's help, but he attacked Neco, who had no intention to invade Judea. In fact Neco had sent the king this word: “What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I am not coming against you today, but against the house with which I am at war.” The Pharaoh did not talk in a proud and blasphemous way as Sennacherib had. He simply warned Josiah saying that he had a prophetic word for him from the Lord himself: “God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, so that he will not destroy you.” Josiah did not honour the warning that the Lord gave him by the mouth of the Pharaoh, and attacked him. The king was defeated and killed, not by Pharaoh, but by his own pride.