Scripture: 1st Reading: Ezra6,7-8,12,14-20; Resp. Psalm: Ps122,1-5; Gosp. Accl.: Lk11,28; Gospel: Lk8,19-21
When the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, one of the places they attacked and destroyed was the temple. This move was strategic because the temple and worship constituted the soul of the nation. The temple was the rallying point. It was the sign of Yahweh's presence among His people and the place of encounter.
Connected to the temple were many other institutions like the priesthood and worship that formed the bedrock of the life of the nation. When the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Israel lost its fundamental essence as a people gathered together by Yahweh to worship and serve Him. But the ways of God are not our ways.
Yahweh put it in the hearts of the kings of Babylon to show uncommon favour to the Israelites. The enemy became the benefactor. The one who once laboured so hard for Israel's extinction now became the promoter of Israel's survival. The kings not only decreed the return of the Jewish exiles back to Israel but also that the temple, the centre of the religious life of the people, their distinguishing mark as a nation, should be rebuilt with money from the royal treasury.
The temple, the visible sign of the presence of Yahweh among His people, was rebuilt. After the rebuilding, the temple was dedicated. The dedication of the temple was celebrated with great joy and the offering of a worthy sacrifice to the name of Yahweh. Life returned to Jerusalem because Yahweh had returned with His people to the Holy place. It once again reclaimed its position as the political capital of the kingdom.
Apart from this, the normal rhythm of cultic life and worship was brought back with the restoration of the priesthood and the services that were to be provided in the temple. The prophetic order and role in the life of the nation were restored and Israel retraced its steps back to its Maker and Lover. The celebration of the Passover, the greatest feast of liberation and deliverance from slavery in Egypt, was recommenced from that year. The house of God once again became the place of encounter between God and His people.
The nation lost its soul because it departed from the word of God. Calamities befell the people because they were no longer obeying the dictates of the word. Our Lord today expressly stated for our edification that the word is fundamental for the life of the believer. The word is so important that even the natural bonds of maternity between the mother and child cannot be compared to it.
For our Lord, doing the word, obeying the word, living one's life solely by the dictates of the word, was of greater importance than maternal filiation. Our Lord's response must definitely have shocked those who came to tell Him that His mother and brethren wanted to see Him. But our Lord knew that the word was life. He knew the word should be everything and obedience to it second to none in the life of every believer.
We are thus challenged today to reconsider our attitude to the word of God. Obedience to the word leads to life; disobedience to the word leads to death. How obedient are we to the word of God? How prompt are we to do its biddings?
Saints Cosmas and Damian, two Syrian brothers, who were reputed to have had medical knowledge and skills which they used for the succour of the people, took the word of God with great earnestness. They were totally committed to the mission of Christ and gave their lives in testimony to their faith during the persecution of emperor Diocletian. They were beheaded for their faith in Christ.
Our commitment to the word will lead us to greater attachment to our Lord because He is the Word personified. Let us allow the word to have a place in our hearts and souls. Let us meditate on the word we listen to daily. Let us be challenged by what we hear and modify our way of life by its commands.
Let us pray: "May you be magnified, O Lord, by the revered memory of your Saints Cosmas and Damian, for with providence beyond words, you have conferred on them everlasting glory, and on us your unfailing help." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.