Exile and Return

Earlier this week at daily Mass we began hearing readings from the second Book of Kings. We’re being introduced to ancient kings from Assyria and Babylon who have one intent: to overthrow the Kingdom of Judah and take captive Jerusalem and despoil the Temple.

These are challenging readings because of the foreign names — Sennacherib, Hezekiah, Hilkiah, Ahikam, Nebuchadnezzar, Jehoiachin and others — but also because they capture a wide swath of biblical history in the rise and fall of successive heirs of Kings David and Solomon. The Chosen People have made themselves vulnerable to being overthrown because they themselves have been overthrown. They have forgotten God. Their kings have forsaken their vocation as shepherds.

In today’s reading, the nearly 1,000-year reign of the Royal Kingdom of Judah, followed by the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel come to an end. Scripture records the events dispassionately, almost like modern-day journalism. Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylon, leads a siege of Jerusalem and conquers it. He captures King Jehoiachin of Judah and sends him into exile, along with the leading people of Jerusalem. Most tragically, Nebuchadnezzer’s army plunders the Temple and all the sacred objects used for the worship of God. With Jerusalem decimated and a foreign king now reigning over the Promised Land, all hope seemingly lost, the chronicler of these events notes this: “None were left among the people of the land except the poor” (2 Kgs 24:15).

Holy Mother Church next offers us the mournful, penitent prayers of these poor and exiled in Psalm 79 for our meditation: “O Lord, how long? … We are brought very low … Help us, O God our savior … Deliver us and pardon our sins…”

No matter where our sins may lead us or how far we feel we have strayed from the Savior’s mercy, may we turn to the Lord just like the psalmist and cry out, “Help us, O God our savior… Deliver us and pardon our sins.”

Father Tim S. Hickey is a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford currently serving as a mission priest in the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas. A native Kansan, he was schooled at Benedictine College, Marquette University and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Prior to becoming a priest, Father Hickey was editor of Columbia magazine for the Knights of Columbus. He writes occasionally for Magnificat’s seasonal special issues and for Communion and Liberation.