Reflection for April 4
Readings: Ez 37:21-28; Jn 11:45-56
In the first reading today we hear God promising to bring the Israelites back to their own land and to make them one nation with one shepherd over them. That shepherd, or prince, the Lord says, shall be David. Of course, God had made a promise to David about his kingship and that it would last forever. In the ancient world, this would often be understood as being fulfilled through the descendants of David. However, we recall that when the Archangel Gabriel spoke to our Lady, he told her that Jesus would sit upon the throne of His father, David, and that He would reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever, and of His Kingdom there would be no end (Lk 1:32-33).
At the time Ezekiel spoke these words, David had been dead for several centuries. More than that, the kingship that followed after David was pretty pathetic. Of the fifty kings that succeeded David, only two were at all decent. So, this prophecy must be understood in a way different from what it would appear on the surface.
Beyond the prophecy about David, there is a new covenant that is promised. This had been promised previously, most clearly in Jeremiah 31, but there are three things mentioned here that are important to note. First, the covenant would be one of peace, second, it would be everlasting, and third, God would multiply His people and put His sanctuary among them forever. Jesus is the Prince of Peace Who established an eternal covenant. More than this, He Himself is that covenant.
The promise to put His sanctuary among the people forever is the point we need to address. God’s sanctuary on earth was in Jerusalem, but we recall that this was based on the instructions given to Moses. Moses, recall, was given a vision of the true sanctuary in Heaven and was told to make a temple based on what he had seen. The Temple in Jerusalem was, therefore, a model of the sanctuary in Heaven.
In his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul tells us that Jesus entered into the sanctuary in Heaven, not a copy of the true sanctuary, but into Heaven itself. He took His Blood, the blood of a spotless, unblemished Lamb, and offered it to our Heavenly Father for the forgiveness of our sins. In so doing, He had destroyed the enmity that existed and has brought peace. The Jewish High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies only one each year. He entered with blood that was not his own, but was from an animal. That blood was offered to make peace and to cover the sins of the people. The blood could not remove the sins, but could only cover them over. This is because it was not human blood. Human beings had sinned, the animals did not. Only human blood could atone for human sin. This is the importance of what Jesus did for us.
It is interesting that the Lord says His sanctuary would be among His people forever. To us it might seem more reasonable to say that we would be brought into His sanctuary forever. In other words, that we would be brought into Heaven. But what is important about this is that it makes clear the order or priorities in Heaven. Given what Ezekiel is saying, Heaven does not exist first and foremost for the Temple of God; rather, Heaven exists for us. Moreover, we exist for God, so the Temple in Heaven is for us, not us for the Temple. In Heaven we will participate fully in the worship of God in that sanctuary in Heaven, but that will be our great privilege. The Temple in Heaven is for us to have a means of expressing our love for God and our worship of Him. In is not there because God is going to require this of us, but because it will be the natural way to express our gratitude and love for the Lord.
In order for any of this to happen, the New Covenant had to be established. The Blood of the Lamb had to be shed so our sins could be forgiven. Even more, the Lamb Who was slain had to rise in order to be the Shepherd of the sheep and take His rightful place on the throne. His throne is the throne of God that is His from all eternity, but it is also the throne of David which is His because of His kingship that was exercised in His service of laying down His life for us and now leading us into the Promised Land of Heaven.
For all of this to occur, God used the very people who would have understood the nature of the sacrifices and the shepherding of God’s flock. The High Priest and the Sanhedrin were employed by God to offer the sacrifice and to establish Jesus as the High Priest and the King or Shepherd of His people. It is interesting to note the twisted logic they used to justify killing the Lord: “If we leave Him alone, all will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take both our land and our nation.” And again: “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”
They looked at things only on the natural level, thus failing to look to God. The very thing they were trying to avoid, that is, that the Romans would come and take away their land and their nation, is exactly what happened. Failing to look to God and looking only for a natural solution to their problems, their worst fears were realized. At the same time, their second point was also realized: Jesus died so that the who nation may not perish.
Our only hope is in the Lord. Even in the present crisis, we have to be careful not to look solely to natural means for a solution. Doctors and scientists can do extraordinary things, but their ability comes from God. We need to pray that God will provide the solution. If He chooses to do that through the doctors and scientists, praise Him! If He chooses to do it is another way, praise Him! We need to learn from the mistakes of the leaders from our Lord’s time and keep our focus on the Lord. Jesus is our peace, He is our covenant, He is our King. Turn to Him and know His peace, rely on His promises, until you are brought into the Temple in Heaven, know that you are the Temple of God now and that the Lord is with you and within you. Unite yourself with Him and let Him be your peace and your hope.