OVERCOMING SPIRITUAL EXILE: REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

The Jewish Exile | BibleProject™

Separation could be a very painful experience. Hearts are often broken when people part ways due to the death of loved ones, when a meaningful relationship ends, or when people move on for any reason at all. Those who serve prison terms attest that the most painful part of their situation is the confinement that separates them from their families and friends.

Exile experience entails the voluntary or forced separation from one’s usual location or residence to a foreign or strange place. One fact is clear, behind every exile, there is captivity. The experience of the people of Judah and their banishment to Babylon gives us some ideas.

There is usually a reason for an exile. In the case of the people of Judah in the last chapter of the Second Book of the Chronicles (36: 14-16; 19-23), their successive kings and leaders offended God by practicing various kinds of abominations which included the pollution of the temple in Jerusalem. Today, we understand that we represent this temple as St. Paul tells us (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

As a result of the people’s abominable actions, and after several warnings, God’s anger came upon them without remedy. The Babylonians laid siege on Jerusalem. They destroyed the temple, tore down the walls, and finally took the people to exile for seventy years until God directed King Cyrus to set them free to rebuild their city.

The Two Forms of Exile

From the narrative of the experience of the people of Israel, we learn that there are two forms of exile: physical and spiritual. We must note that they are congenially connected. For instance, physical exile could be the consequence of a spiritual exile, like in the example of the people of Judah.

Spiritual Exile

The first recorded exile in the scriptures was not the first deportation to Babylon but Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1f). From the story, we understand that they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit following the devil’s suggestion represented by the serpent. Here we realize that their physical disconnection from the Garden was because they disobeyed God, which was a spiritual default.

Sin has a way of taking us to exile. Spiritual exile refers to the captivity of the soul by sin. You are on a spiritual exile when you disconnect from God and focus on your selfish desires and ambitions or fall into the traps of the devil whose program is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a).

The story of the prodigal son (Luke15:11-32) is a typical demonstration of spiritual exile. We could recall that the second son asked for his share of the father’s possessions, and getting it, he travels to a distant country where he spent everything in a life of dissipation. The distant country represents estrangement and deportation to the region of destruction, in order words, a spiritual exile.

Moving Forward: Breaking from Spiritual Exile

Think about your life; you could be in exile. Are you where you are supposed to be in life? Exile means being in the wrong place for the wrong reasons. Any life lived without God is an exile project site.

Maybe you are constantly getting things wrong in your work, relationships,  and life in general. You could be in exile, and you need help. The good news is that God cares about you even when everything and everyone fails you (Psalm 27:10). After seventy years, God made the pagan king Cyrus set the people of Judah free to return and rebuild their city.

God is thinking about you, and His thoughts are of peace, a future, and hope (Jer. 29:11). You shall come out from your spiritual exile and obtain your liberation; your exile would turn into exultation. Psalm (126:1-2) says it would seem like a dream and your mouth would be filled with laughter. This is the will of God for you, the same mercy and compassion that made Him send His so that whoever believes would gain eternal life (John 3:16)

There would be the need for you to make a conscious effort to undo your past mistakes that led you to the exile experience in the first place. What you do in exile determines if you would stay on or be released. From the prodigal son, we learn the value of coming to our senses; that may be what you need to do now to save yourself from spiritual exile.

As we continue this Lenten journey, let us pay attention to God’s words and make use of the opportunity we have now to retrace our steps and receive liberation from the exilic regions confronting us.

God bless you, and have a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

                                                          

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