A reading from the Second Book of Chronicles
(Chapter 36: 14-16, 19-23)
This reading tells the people of Israel how the terrible Babylonian Exile happened and how it ended.
“In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem. Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on them and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of the God, despised his warnings, and scoffed his prophets, until the anger of the Lord against his people was so enflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all of its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon….”
So, that is how the Babylonian Exile began and this is how it ended:
“The Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom…. ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judea. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him.’”
Somehow, the God of the conquered people of Israel reached into the heart of this powerful king, and the people are once again free. Of course, there were also political reasons for the king to free the Israelites, but the author attributes it all to the Lord.
There is an old saying that “God works in strange ways.” Perhaps, when you think about it, you’ll recall that happening to you, not only in the ancient past but now.
“Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you.” Are there times when you seem to be tongue-tied, unable to talk to God in prayer? Sometimes, your deepest prayer may simply be silence. No words come to you. Relax! It may take a while, but the Spirit that dwells within you will hear you in the silence.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
“Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy….” Let’s stop there for a minute. Are you rich in mercy? Or are there times when you have trouble showing mercy for others because of what they said or did or did not do? St. Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ—by grace you have been saved—, raised up with him. …“This is not from you; it is a gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”
Has anyone ever told you that you need to do good works so you can get to heaven? As we see from Paul, grace is a gift, the Spirit within us is a gift, heaven is a gift, all from our loving God. We can’t “earn heaven,” but we can refuse it. We have free will to turn away from God, but even then, God is always there, never stopping his great love for us. It is all gift from our ever-loving God!
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
All this is a gift, but like any gift, people may refuse it. Here, John uses the powerful image of light. “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light, and does not come near the light, so that his works might be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done by God alone.”
We often hear of powerful and famous people whose dark deeds suddenly come to light and others whose dark deeds seem to be shown proudly without remorse. Sadly, some still see them as role models, even as their true colors have been shown. No one of us is perfect, and we shall not judge hastily. May we always seek the light and the goodness it brings to us even as we struggle with the darkness that may be within us and without, remembering that the Light of the Spirit of God lives within each of us. Let us forever seek the light, especially in the darkness that sometimes appears.
Where is your darkness, within or without? Let the light of the Spirit shine on through.
Photo by Dewang Gupta on Upsplash
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.