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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sabbath and Jubilee Years: Bible Comment on Leviticus 25 with poem by James Grahame, The Jubilee

Daily Readings
Psalm 57, Numbers 4, Leviticus 25, Matthew 3

Daily Text: Leviticus 25

Sabbath & Jubilee Years
Six years and then the land lies fallow. For how many centuries has the Sabbath Year of Leviticus 25 been observed? Many. History is replete with its witnesses. Just one of these is that of Josephus who recorded that Julius Caesar lightened taxes for Palestinian Jews who were observing the Seventh Year [185:941]. Wrote Plaut, “The surprising thing is not that the law was sometimes broken—many persons were suspected of trafficking in fruits of the seventh year—but that so many Jews observed it at great cost to themselves” [185:941]. The Jubilee year was a different matter. But while the Jubilee ideal created in Leviticus 25 may never have been observed, it continues to this day to inspire a concept of social justice for which men and women of few means yearn. This vision provides a marvelous alternative to both of the great economic practices of our time—communism and capitalism. Wherever unchecked ownership of private property is enshrined, there the people will eventually be enslaved by the wealthy classes (Henry George 185:951) That was true in Egypt, it was true in Rome, and it is becoming apparent in the United States, where there is already a permanent and rapidly growing underclass.

The written treatment of redemption rights for property and persons is likewise a beacon for humanity. There is here a different standard for alien and Hebrew, however, that standard is not based on intrinsic rights, but redemptive rights. That is because God redeemed the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and made them his own, no one ever has the right to re-enslave them. Once God redeems, that redemption is to be honored for all time (vs. 41-42, 55). It may be simply a concept, but it is one that gleams with the light of heaven, and one that finds a home in the Christian Testament, as well.

The Jubilee
Leviticus 25:8-13
James Grahame

The trumpet’s voice
The Sabbath of the jubilee announced;
The freedom-freighted blast, through all the land,
At once, in every city, echoing rings,
From Lebanon to Carmel’s woody cliffs,
So loud, that, far within the desert’s verge,
The crouching lion starts, and glares around.

Free is the bondman now; each one returns
To his inheritance. The man, grown old
In servitude far from his native fields,
Hastes joyous on his way. No hills are steep;
Smooth is each rough path. His little ones
Sport as they go, while oft the mother chides
The lingering step, lured by the wayside flowers.

At length, the hill from which a farewell look,
And still another parting look, he cast
On his parental vale, appears in view.
The summit gained, throbs hard his heart, with joy
And sorrow blent, to see that vale once more.
Instant his eager eye darts to the roof
Where first he saw the light. His youngest born
He lifts, and pointing to the much-loved spot,
Says, “There my father lived, and there they sleep.”

Onward he wends: near and more near he draws—
How sweet the tinkle of the palm-bower’d brook!
The sunbeam, slanting through the cedar grove,
How lovely, and how mild! but loveliest still
The welcome in the eye of ancient friends,
Scarce known at first;--and dear the fig-tree shade,
In which, on Sabbath eve, his father told
Of Israel, from the house of bondage freed,
Led through the desert to the promised land.
With eager arms the agèd stem he clasps,
And with his tears the furrow’d bark bedews;
And still at midnight hour he thinks he hears
The blissful sound that brake the bondman’s chains,--
The glorious peal of freedom and of joy.

Collect for the Day
God our help and strength, look with mercy on all who are oppressed in mind, body, or human dignity. Shield and protect them, and give them that wholeness which is your will for all your children. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. [476:778:57 psalm prayer]


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