23Sep 23 September, 2013. Monday of the Twenty Fifth Week

Ezra 1:1ff. Cyrus lets the Jews return home to their own land.

Lk 8:16ff. A lamp must go on a lampstand to brighten the house. Whoever has spiritual depth will be given more.

First Reading: Ezra 1:1-6

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared: “Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people – may their God be with them! – are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.”

The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites – everyone whose spirit God had stirred – got ready to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbours aided them with silver vessels, with gol, with goods, with animals, and with valuable gifts, besides all that was freely offered.

Gospel: Luke 8:16-18

“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”

Cryptic Statements

Jesus’ word about the lampstand is startling in its implications; his next word, about having and gaining, or not-having and losing even that little, is enigmatic baffling and provocative, in the best Jewish tradition. His cryptic statement, “The one who has, will be given more; the one who has not, will lose even that little.” can be paraphrased: the one who has time to pray and reflect will be given more; the one who does not take time to turn to God for advice will lose even the little wisdom that he or she may have.

For the next three weeks the first readings are from the early postexilic literature that was centred on the rebuilt temple, the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Baruch, Jonah, Malachi and Joel. While the wisdom writers pay little attention to the temple, the prophets urgently consider the role of the temple in people’s lives.

We are introduced to this rather unexciting period from 539 B.C. onward, by the Book of Ezra. The returning Israelites had to leave most of their property behind. We know that life in Babylon (then a province of Persia) had become prosperous in that period. The Jews who never returned eventually produced the famous Babylonian Talmud, still revered by devout Jews. To return to the homeland meant a drastic decision for the Lord. This action was like taking the lamp from under a covering and place it on a lampstand. It allowed others to walk in the beam of its light. People can be greatly enriched, if we leave everything behind us for the Lord’s sake; if we seek God unreservedly, all will be given to us.