…they shall look on him whom they have pierced
Zechariah 12: 10
Most Christians, following the lead of John 19: 37, read this passage as a reference to Christ on the cross.
This is especially easy way to read the passage when an alternative reading translates it as “they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced,” in the Douay Rheims translation.
It is critical that we look upon the crucified Christ. Indeed, this is one of the important meditations in St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.
But Tanakh, a Jewish translation of the scriptures, is different and divides the text in a unique way, placing it with verse 9:
In that day I will all but annihilate all the nations that came up against Jerusalem. But I will fill the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem with a spirit of pity and compassion; ands they shall lament to Me about those who are slain, wailing over them as over a favorite son and showing bitter grief as over a first-born.
When I read it I wondered if this compassion and weeping were meant not just for the fallen of Jerusalem but for the nations annihilated as they attacked the Holy City.
No matter what the intentions of the writer of this text, I think it can open for us the importance to look on those who are pierced in this world.
Or, as the Jesuit theologian Jon Sobrino put it:
Concluding his meditation on sin [in the Spiritual Exercises], St. Ignatius Loyola asks us to look at the crucified Christ and ask ourselves what have we done to him, what are we doing for him, and what are we going to do for him. Ignacio Ellacuría. . . asks us to place ourselves before the crucified people [of the world] and answer the same three questions: What have I done to crucify them? What am I doing to take them down from the cross? what should I do to ensure their resurrection?
Today, let us look upon the pierced of the world – those pierced by poverty and injustice, those pierced by the arms of war, those pierced by violence and discrimination.
And thus may “a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1) be opened up for all of us.