2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
History is always being rewritten by different generations and women have almost always been written out of these accounts. This is certainly the case for the two books of Chronicles which re-tell the whole history of the world from Adam onwards, missing out many of the incidents involving women. Whereas the history recounted in the Books of Samuel and Kings centre on how well, or badly, the various kings of Israel and Judah were faithful to the Law of Moses, these books are centred around the cult of the Temple. It is thought that they were written by people from the priestly caste sometime after the Exile in Babylon. Today’s extract decries the faithlessness of the priesthood before the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the call by a pagan king, no less, to rebuild the Temple.
Last week in our Gospel Jesus cleansed the Temple of the sellers and moneychangers. That Temple was a re-modelling by Herod the Great of the Temple built after the return of the Exiles. We remember that Jesus then talked about a new Temple, one built around his body.
In the opening verses of the chapter from which this extract is taken St Paul describes the pitiful, sinful state of humankind. In spite of this, “God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy.” A key theme of his writings is the utterly undeserved nature of God’s mercy and love for us. We are, he notes, saved by grace, “not by anything of your own, but a gift from God.” Notice how he goes on to call us, “God’s work of art”! Although difficult to believe at times – perhaps especially when we look at ourselves in the mirror – nonetheless this is who we are. We are called and enabled in this to “live the good life as from the beginning we were meant to live it”. Human sinfulness made us unable to fulfil our true destiny, but now God’s grace makes this possible.
The interplay between “life” and “light”, which St John first used in the Prologue to his Gospel, is continued here as he insists on God’s love for us. Referring back to the incident in the Book of Numbers when the People were saved from a plague of poisonous, fiery serpents by looking at a bronze serpent made into a standard and held up by Moses, we remember that Jesus too will be “lifted up”. This time it will not be for a single people, however, it will be for all people. The people, thus saved, are called then to live in “the light” and the “truth”.