At the evening sacrifice I, Ezra, got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, and said,
"O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case. But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, so that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem."
God punishes, he also has mercy,
he leads men to the depths of the grave,
he restores them from the great destruction.
No man can escape his hand. (R./)
It is he who scattered us among the nations.
Among them must we show forth his greatness
and exalt him in the presence of all living;
for he is our Lord and our God,
our Father and our God for ever. (R./)
Now think what he has done for you,
give thanks to him with all your voice.
Give praise to the Lord for his justice
and exalt the kings of all ages. (R./)
In this land of exile I will thank him,
and show forth his greatness and might to the race of sinful men.
Sinners, come back to him, do what is right before him.
Who knows but he will receive you with pity? (R./)
Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money--not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
Ezra was like another Moses, urging his Hebrew people to faithfully keep their covenant with God. Although the Jews returned from exile in 537 B.C., on reaching the Promised Land they accomplished little, apart from partially rebuilding their destroyed city and erecting a small temple. Ezra set out to encourage and guide this weary people. He re-edited the Books of Moses as their guide to living, and added interpretations of the Law, which developed in later centuries into the famous Talmud.
He begins with an abject confession, identifying himself with his people’s guilt, "My God, I am too ashamed to raise my face to you, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads." Then he declares that divine mercy has blessed them again; they are a remnant, like a sapling firmly planted in the holy land. By God’s providence they also enjoy the goodwill of the Persian king, who helped rebuild the house of God. Sober realism marks this sermon of Ezra. Sometimes we need to be told things bluntly, admit our mistakes and take responsibility for them, and then count our blessings, for things are not as bad as we suppose. There is a future for us and for our people, our church.
On a happier note, the gospel shows Jesus sending out the apostles, to cure the sick and promote the reign of God. These missionaries need not carry bread or money, not even staff and traveling bag. They brought a blessing by their joy and trust, inviting others to share their trust in God. Occasionally the shadow of a living saint crosses our path in somebody we meet. We should encourage their ideals, support them, and welcome them into our homes. Then the grace of God will be among us.
When Jesus sent out his twelve on mission he wanted them to travel light. They were to depend on the hospitality of those to whom they preach the gospel. Rather than be overly self-reliant, they needed to be reliant on others, to trust in the Lord, who would help them through the kindness of strangers.
We all like to be independent, and to some extent we need to be. But we are never completely self-sufficient. We began life completely dependent on parents and others, and as we come towards the end of life we will equally need others to care for us. Even between these two points of high dependence, we depend on others for what we do not have within ourselves. Why deprive ourselves of rich resources that others can offer us? The Lord wants us to welcome the kindly service of others. Each of us has much to give and much to receive. The Lord who uses us to serve others also wants us to avail of others’ help.