Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Monday, October 03, 2005

Passing Through

Daily Readings
Sirach 26:29-27:29 + II Kings 15 + II Chronicles 26 + Jeremiah 48

Quote of the Day
He built towers in the wilderness and hewed out many cisterns, for he had large herds, both in the Shephelah and in the plain, and he had farmers and vinedressers in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. II Chronicles 26:10

Daily Text: II Kings 15

Passing Through
Amaziah or Uzziah, as he was alternately known, ruled for 52 years in Judah. Stability marked his reign. With the exception of his error in trying to offer sacrifices in the temple, for which God struck him with leprosy, or if not Hanson’s disease, some other fearful skin disease, Amaziah’s reign was one of great accomplishment in terms of extending the boundaries of Judah and enriching the land through careful husbandry.

At the same time, with Jeroboam’s death in Samaria, Israel was wracked by assassinations and regime change, all of which weakness is reflected in Amos’ prophecy at the time. Too they were confronted with the campaigns of Tiglath-pileser, III of Assyria who in the 8th century consolidated his power throughout the region, to Damascus, Syria, Babylonia and north into modern-day Armenia. Tiglath-Pileser used a novel mechanism to consolidate his power removing large numbers of exiles to the north and replacing them with large numbers of other exiles from the north. The upshot was a consolidation of his own power that was remarkable for the time. Israel was caught in this, according to the Deuteronomist, because of their sins against God, their service to Baal and other pagan gods.

One of the lessons to be learned, in addition to that of the value of serving the one God, is that economic strength comes from solid defense and the building of internal mechanisms to benefit your own people. While sometimes foreign adventuring can bring great wealth, usually it only impoverishes the nation. It does that through exhorbitant military costs, and continual rebellions among conquered peoples. Occupied nations are never happy ones and they can bleed the conqueror in an untold number of ways. This was as true for the great oppressors like Assyria as it was for little Israel. Judah under Uzziah stayed the more stable course.

In the Ruined Citadel
Samuel Hanagid

I billeted a strong force overnight in a citadel
laid waste in former days by other generals.
There we slept upon its back and flanks,
while under us its landlords slept.

And I said to my heart:
Where are the many people who once lived here?
Where are the builders and vandals,
the rulers and paupers, the slaves and masters?

Where are the begetters and the bereaved, the fathers
and the sons, the mourners and the bridegrooms?
And where are the many people born after the others had died,
in days gone by, after other days and years?

Once they lodged upon the earth;
now they are lodged within it.
They passed from their palaces to the grave,
from pleasant courts to dust.

Were they now to raise their heads and emerge,
they would rob us of our lives and pleasures.
Oh, it is true, my soul, most true:
tomorrow I shall be like them,
and all these troops as well!
443:285

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