20 Sept, Tuesday of Week 25
Ezra 6:7ff. With prophetic encouragement and financial help from Persia, the Jews proceed to rebuild the temple.
Lk 8:19ff. “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
Knowing and Doing
Today’s Reading shows in what a variety of ways the will of God is made known and accomplished. Ezra refers to imperial decrees from the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius, messages of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (which will begin later this week), and financial help from Persian taxes, as supporting the sanctuary liturgy and the functions of priests and Levites.
We must belong to the total world and not isolate ourselves in the sanctuary or in the pages of the Bible. We must be interested in politics, local, national and international, higher learning, economics and finance, being both cautious scholars and threatening prophets. As we form our decisions from this wide background, we are drawn into a world family and in such a setting can arrive at the will of God for us.
Within the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah we observe the foundation of Judaism into the shape it had ihn the days of Jesus, and as it would survive the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in A.D. 66. Judaism supplied the strength and principles by which the people maintained their identity even into our own time. Religion was associated with every aspect of life, and life found its meaning and value within religious faith. Even though the Book of Ezra seems monotonous, foreign and impractical to us, the reason for our difficulty lies in the close interaction of this book with real life of Judaism. We ourselves cannot duplicate the details nor form identical judgments, but we are being continuously challenged to unite our religion and our life just as intimately.
Most of the sapiential literature, notably the Book of Proverbs, defers very little to temple and religious authority and concentrates on common sense and ancient wisdom. What has succeeded for so many years, even centuries, has an exceptional lasting power. It has no special set of prerequisites to understand its message. Just be open, honest, reflective, humble, strong, the basic qualities of human nature as it was originally created by God and as it has spread throughout the world. All the world knows and accepts the wisdom of Proverbs: The one who makes a fortune by a lying tongue is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.
Whether we take the more “religious” route of Ezra or the more “secular” way of Proverbs, we must arrive at a healthy openness to the real world and form ties with men and women everywhere. Perhaps that was the intention of Jesus in his enigmatic reply sent by a messenger to his mother Mary and his brothers. Jesus’ words may even have seemed a repudiation of his own immediate relatives when he said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” Therefore, truly to know that word we must be in contact with everyone who is sincere, virtuous, obedient and responsive to life.
First Reading: Ezra 6:7-8, 12, 14-20
Do not impede the work on this house of God; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God: the cost is to be paid to these people, in full and without delay, from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province Beyond the River. May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people that shall put forth a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”
So the elders of the Jews built and prospered, through the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished their building by command of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia; and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. They offered at the dedication of this house of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. Then they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their courses for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.
On the fourteenth day of the first month the returned exiles kept the passover. For both the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were clean. So they killed the passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by all who had joined them and separated themselves from the pollutions of the nations of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. With joy they celebrated the festival of unleavened bread seven days; for the Lord had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
Gospel: Luke 8:19-21
Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”