Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
The Babylonian exile was the darkest moment in Israelite history. Due to the increasing infidelity of the leaders and the people against the Lord, “the Lord’s anger against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burned the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces on fire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons.” It was a foreigner, Cyrus, the king of Persia, who would bring this captivity and bitter exile to an end. He will order the rebuilding of the Temple of God and restore the freedom of the people of Israel.
Cyrus, the king of Persia, is a wonderful image of Christ. Just as he declared: “All the kingdoms of the earth, the Lord, the God of heaven has given me,” so will the Lord Jesus later declare: “Everything in heaven and on earth has been given me by my Father in heaven.” Just as Cyrus declared: “God has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem,” so will the Lord Jesus later declare: “Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up.” Just as Cyrus declared that all the captive Israelites are to return to their homeland, so would the Lord Jesus later say: “He has sent me to declare freedom to prisoners.” Indeed, the captivity which the Israelites inflicted upon themselves by their sins was ended by Cyrus. In like manner, the captivity which we inflicted upon ourselves by our sins was ended by the Lord Jesus: “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.”
It is the love of God that has done this: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. Contrary to the cruelty which the world accuses God, God has nothing but love for us. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” God is not cruel to us. We inflict this cruelty to ourselves. We condemn ourselves by staying away from the light and love of God: “This is the verdict: that the light came into the world but people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil.” Don’t we sometimes wonder why people prefer darkness to light? Why are many young people attracted to a culture of darkness? Why a preference for darkness? Perhaps it is because the darkness gives people a false sense of freedom. Darkness gives people the illusion that under the cover of its shadows they can do what they want. And the forces of darkness refuse to let their subjects draw close to the light because they know that the light will expose the chains of slavery to which their subjects are attached. “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come towards the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”
God draws us to Jesus who is lifted up on the wood of the Cross. Christ on the Cross is the lamp placed on the lamp stand that illumines the entire household. Christ on the Cross exposes the ugliness of sin and the gravity of its slavery. When we look upon the Crucified One, we see what our sins have done to Him. And yet, Christ on the Cross reveals to us the greatness of God’s love for us. When we look upon the Crucified One, we see what God, in his love, is willing to do for us. In the Crucified One, God shows “the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” It is by this grace that we are saved!
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!