A strange kind of king

20140525_163201Even though across its long history Israel had very little to make it stand out – one thing that is notable is the honesty with which it tells its story. So although it could never claim to be the largest, wealthiest, most powerful or most influential nation, perhaps it can lay claim to being the one nation that told its own story with a brutal truth. The prophecy that forms our first reading today, taken from Zechariah 9 is a great example. Zechariah writes around 520BC – around 20 years after the people have returned from their fifty plus year Exile in Babylon. Although they are now back in their own land, they have very little to show for it. The Persians have allowed them to return and provided some funding to rebuild both the city and the temple, but all that they have to show at the moment are the foundations for a new temple and a partly rebuilt wall. The city is not yet rebuilt and the surrounding countryside is still suffering from the destruction that the Babylonians had unleashed upon the small forces of Israel’s army. So I imagine that the people would have listened with great delight when Zechariah began the prophecy – the call to ‘Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem!’ The next line must also have been heard with great delight: “See now, your king comes to you; [and then it gets even better – after all their defeats] – he is victorious, he is triumphant!’ But then the prophecy begins to turn very strange indeed, and very characteristic of Hebrew prophecy: He is “humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Surely the people would have expected that a victorious and triumphant king would come on a great stallion warhorse – but no, this long-expected king is going to overthrow the way of war and triumph by a new system of peace…

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Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (7’57”)
Sunday 14, Year A. Zech 9:9-10; Mt 11:25-30
(Patronal Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)

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