What does it take to bring someone to their senses?
Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son. After he squandered all of his money, a famine struck the land — that was bad — and he found a job
tending the pigs — that was worse. He longed to eat the pigs’ food,
though no one gave him any — that was rock bottom. And that’s when he came to his senses.
the history of the Jewish people, the Exile was rock bottom. It
actually was a series of events, just like the Exodus, but its
centerpiece happened in 587 BC, when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar
invaded Jerusalem. His army killed people, utterly destroyed the city –
including the Temple of Solomon – and deported the leaders of the
It was a national calamity. The people appeared to have
lost all of the promises God had made. It would have been easy for the
Jewish people to lose their faith. Some probably did. But Israel, as a nation, came to its senses during the Exile.
Amid physical, psychological and religious suffering in the land of the
Exile, they rediscovered their relationship with God. It was, in some
ways, a long Lent; they came to see it like that — as a time of
purification. As with the Prodigal Son, hitting rock bottom became an
occasion for Israel to return to the Father’s house.
about us? We’ve all known people who came to their senses only after
getting the stuffing knocked out of them. To be sure, we don’t believe
that every disaster is a punishment for our sins. Jesus set that
straight in John 9, in His encounter with the man born blind. But
experience tells us — and faith confirms — that every calamity contains
an opportunity to deepen our relationship with the Lord.
this pattern throughout salvation history. Joseph was sold into slavery,
then rose to the height of Pharaoh’s court and saved his people. Israel
was persecuted in Egypt, then lived through the Exodus and travelled
into the Promised Land. The Jewish people were deported into Babylon and
revitalized their faith. Jesus was crucified, then rose from the dead.
It’s no wonder the Catechism says that “the Exile stands in the shadow
of the Cross.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 710) In the life of
faith, every time of trial is a potential time of renewal.
face trials, we have a choice: we can become bitter and lose faith, or
the trial can become an occasion for deepening our relationship with
God. In the Exile, the Jewish people renewed and deepened their faith. I
pray that each of us will follow their example.
Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant, but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.
Read about the facts of the Exile in 2 Kings 24 & 25 and 2 Chronicles 36.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the Exile in paragraphs 710, 769, 1005, 1012, 1081, 1093, 1681 & 2795.