First Reading: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Temple Destruction and Restoration
14 All the chiefs of the priests, and the people, trespassed very greatly after all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of YHWH which he had made holy in Jerusalem. 15 YHWH, the God of their fathers, sent to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending, because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: 16 but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of YHWH arose against his people, until there was no remedy.
19 They burnt God’s house, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels of it. 20 He carried those who had escaped from the sword away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: 21 to fulfill the word of YHWH by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. As long as it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. 22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of YHWH by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, YHWH stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘YHWH, the God of heaven, has given all the kingdoms of the earth to me; and he has commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, YHWH his God be with him, and let him go up.’”
World English Bible
14-16 These short passages described the last days of the kingdom in Judea, the Babylonian exile, and the return of the faithful. The author blamed both the priests and the people for infidelity and abuse, in spite of the prophets sent to preach repentance.
19-23 In the end, the nation forced God's hand against them. And Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. The Temple was blasphemed and destroyed. The best of the nation were taken to Babylon to serve their new masters.
But, hope was not completely lost. After 70 years (a time span that indicated fulfillment of divine will as a Sabbath rest), a new hero emerged: Cyrus the conquering Persian. He proclaimed a royal edict for the people of Judea. Israelites should return and rebuild the Temple.
Politically, this was a wise move on the part of Cyrus. As the most western province of the Empire, a strengthened Judea would faced another regional power (Egypt). By repatriating the Jews and enriching them to rebuild Jerusalem, the Persian created a defensive buffer.
Sometimes wisdom requires a view of the larger picture. Cyrus could see this vista. The Temple priests in the time of Jesus could not. One needs a selfless spirit to obtain this wisdom. The common good outweighs personal enrichment. Others' needs are sometimes greater than mine.
Look at your own life and life circumstances. When have you sacrificed personal gain for the good of others? How has this sacrifice enriched your life?