Scripture: 1st Reading: Ezra1,1-6; Resp. Psalm: Ps126,1-6; Gosp. Accl.: Mt5,16; Gospel: Lk8,16-18
God's ways are not our ways, His thoughts not our thoughts. When we follow our own designs and plans without God's approval, we end up in tears and frustration. When we allow God whose eyes can see beyond our limited visions, God takes over the ordering of our lives and we enjoy limitless happiness.
This was what happened to Israel in exile in Persia, the capital of the Babylonian empire. Prophet Jeremiah had prophesied about the restoration of Israel by their oppressors; that Yahweh would use the enemy to bring Israel back to their land; that Israel would prosper in their land of exile if they were patient enough to see the works of God in their lives. Yahweh brought that to fulfilment today.
In a surprising way, the oppressor became the benefactor, the enemy became a friend, the one who wanted the complete annihilation and destruction of Israel eagerly sought its peace and restoration. Cyrus the king of Persia decreed that the survivors in his realm should go back and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Not only that, that his people should show uncommon generousity to them as they were departing.
When Israel left Egypt, they despoiled the Egyptians as in an act of war who gave them their goods as they fled the land. In Persia, it was the Cyrus himself who ordered that this be done! This happened because whenever God's time arrives, no mortal can stand in His way. When God decides to bless and prosper someone, no mortal can be an obstacle.
The survivors of Israel went back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and pick up the pieces of their lives as a nation. The Lord indeed performed great deeds on behalf of His people. He brought them from the dungeon into peace and prosperity. He ended their sorrows. The Psalmist today said when God brought them back from the land of exile, they thought they were dreaming. But it was not a dream. It was the right hand and holy arm of Yahweh that brought it about.
Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations. The people sinned against Yahweh and were sent on exile. Believers today represent that light to the nations. This is why our Lord today told us that our light, that is, our deeds and lives, must be put on a lampstand for all to see. He told us that nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Our responsibility as believers is to provide light to enlighten the darkness of the world around us. Our role is to manifest our faith so that people who see us will recognize the commitment we have taken upon ourselves. God who loves us will not hesitate to restore us. Like Israel of old, we need to listen to His voice and follow His bidding. When we plan without Him, we plan to fail. When He is with us, we succeed.
Let us pray: Lord our God, we thank you for the beauty of your word today. Strengthen us to give heed to it. Give us patience to await the fulfillment of your promises in our lives. Reveal your power in our lives to confirm our faith in you. Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.