From a Creighton Student's Perspective
September 20, 2011
Sophomore, History Major, Biology Minor, Pre-Med
I love history. I am a history major at Creighton, and I greatly enjoy reading about past events. In today’s first reading from Ezra, there is quite a bit of historical context that, if overlooked, could cause us to misunderstand its meaning. In it, the Jews have just been allowed to return after the Babylonian Exile, a period when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and all Jews were forced to move to other lands. For many years, the Jews had no place or way to worship but, with faith, they kept prayerful and vigilant, waiting for the time when God would grant them the opportunity to return. Finally the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians and King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return home to Jerusalem. In the reading today, the Jews have just finished rebuilding their previously destroyed temple, which they call the “house of God.” But to the Jews, the word 'house' didn’t just mean a building where they lived. It meant much more than that. The word 'house' referred to their household or family. In this reading, the Jews were not only rebuilding the physical temple of the Lord, but also his family, the Israelites, by returning to worship in Jerusalem.
Today’s Gospel, although short, is an amazing complement to the first reading. In it, Jesus says something extremely profound and relevant to us; he states that his mother and brothers (in other words his family) are those who act on the Word of God. With this statement, Jesus is essentially sending an invitation for every person to join his family. He does not limit his family to only those closest to him, namely Mary and the Apostles, but encourages everyone to join his family by acting on the Word of God. In the first reading, the Jews have recognized the same call to action from God. Instead of just staying where they were, they acted on God’s call and moved back to Jerusalem to rebuild his house. They trusted in God’s word and acted in a way that reflected that trust.
To truly join Jesus’s family, it takes more than just belief in the truth of Jesus and salvation. These readings are God’s calling for all of us to make the decision to join God’s family through action; but not just any action. The decision to accept the mercy and salvation offered to us by God must be reflected by living the Word of God. The Jews in the first reading, and Mary and the Apostles in the Gospel, lived in such a way. They heard what God said and acted on it. They are the examples we have to follow. We must do the same if we truly want to join in God’s family and receive his salvation.
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