What makes you weep or fall on your face and cry?
If I would have asked that question of the Israelites in the 5th century BC who were listening to Ezra, the priest read and interpret the LAW for them, they might say. “This is what makes us weep; Yahweh’s goodness, love, constancy and our Covenant Relationship with God makes us weep.”
On this third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the first reading from Nehemiah allows us to listen in to the Word of God as it is proclaimed by Ezra. The Chosen People have been having a very hard time of it. They had their city overrun, they were sent into exile and now they are free to return to rebuild their lives as a people. The LAW, the Word of God, was “Good News” to their ears and hearts. Hearing the Word of God, assured them of their identity, in spite of all their sufferings, they still belong to Yahweh, “He is their God and they are his people”. They were a people again, a community. Can you image how they must have felt? They had so to be grateful for. Perhaps I might compare their plight to how many of the migrants and refugees might feel once they are reunited with their loved ones. No doubt there would be many tears, hugs and clinging to one another for joy.
The people clung to every Word, they listened and prayed the entire morning from “daybreak to midday”. Totally involved, “they bowed down, prostrated themselves before the Lord with their faces on the ground”. Ezra says, “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep. But go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks and allot a portion to those who have nothing prepared…Do not be sad but rejoice.”
Ezra is helping the people realize again who they are, just as Paul in the second reading is reminding the Corinthians, “Now you are Christ’s body”. Jesus in the Gospel of Luke reminds all of us that just as He is the anointed one and so are we through our Baptism, we are called to be joyful, “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim freedom to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind- to let the oppressed go free”. we are to do and be what Pope Francis asks of us to be- a people of mercy.
What Jesus, Paul and Ezra are saying to us may make us weep as we understand and fathom the depths of this wonderful divine mystery in which we find our identity in knowing we belong to God in Christ. Go ahead and weep and be joyful. You and all people are precious in God’s eyes!
Rose Ann Barmann, OSB