There is much Christological imagery in the book of Zechariah which brings the revelation of the Old Testament to a beautiful flowering and opens the way to understanding that these prophecies and promises would be answered once and for all through Christ. In the first reading today we hear a perfect example of this as we read: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son… as one grieves over a firstborn”. From the earliest Christian times these words were interpreted as referring to the death of Jesus whose side was pierced on the cross, and to the onlookers who mourned him, including Mary, who had lost her only son and firstborn.
Turning to the salvific acts of God which Zechariah forecast and which were fulfilled in Christ, the prophet tells us that the members of the “house of David” would be given access to a purifying fountain to cleanse them of their sins. We immediately think of the people of Israel when we hear the expression “house of David”, and that is right; what we learn in the gospel is that the promise God made to the house of David would be extended through Jesus to all the nations.
Our Church believes and teaches that the Jewish people are the original bearers of the promise of salvation and that they can indeed attain to that salvation through their fidelity to the covenant which God made with them forever. Thus in a mysterious way they participate in the fruits of the redemption which Christ established for all people but which is not yet recognized by all—Jew and Christian alike. The “house of David” has thus not been left behind, but has been enlarged so that those who belong to this “house” not by birth but by faith—as Paul reminds us in today’s reading from Galatians—can enter into the same joy to which God called his chosen people from of old.
Going deeper, Paul’s teaching in Galatians is truly remarkable: he says that all of us who have been baptized into Christ and believe in him exist is such a way that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female” (Gal 3:28). Note that this comes through baptism, the immersion into the full experience of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ which marks the beginning of every disciple’s formal journey of faith. What this means is that only by coming to know who the “Son of Man” is in every dimension of his life and suffering (Luke 9:22), can we honestly understand the cost of being his followers (9:23) and embrace the salvation that makes all other human distinctions fade away.
Zechariah anticipates the suffering of the Son of Man in vivid imagery, the gospel recounts it as predicted by Jesus himself, and St. Paul confirms its meaning for us in Galatians. It remains for each of us to enter into the “house of David” by our faith and knowledge of the Son of Man and become spiritual heirs to the promise once made to the Jewish people and now open to all who believe in the name of the Lord. Then, as Paul says, we will be free to live as sisters and brothers in Christ, divided no longer at the most fundamental level of our existence by origin, status, or sex, but all made one in him through the cleansing fountain of purification foreseen by the prophet and fulfilled in the waters of baptism.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.