Today’s first reading is one of the most significant passages in Jewish scripture. It sets the stage for the second great Exodus of the Jewish people. In the first Exodus, the Jews escaped from slavery in Egypt and sought out the Promised Land. In today’s reading, we learn of the decree of Cyrus, King of Persia, freeing the Chosen People from captivity in Babylon so that they can return to the Promised Land, to Jerusalem, to rebuild the Temple destroyed by the Babylonians when they drove the Jews into captivity in Babylon.
Just as Moses led the people from Egypt, Ezra and others led the people from Babylon. As the Jews fled from Egypt, their Egyptian neighbors provided them with gold and jewelry to help finance their long journey. Similarly, Cyrus calls on the people of Babylon to provide the Jews returning to Jerusalem with “silver, gold, goods, and cattle, together with free-will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.”
Shortly after the Jews crossed the Red Sea on their journey to the Promised Land from Egypt, they stopped at the foot of Mount Sinai long enough for Moses to receive the Ten Commandments from God. They do not resume their journey until they have heard the commandments and committed themselves to obeying them. They often failed to keep the Commandments, and the prophets constantly reminded them to obey God’s Law. Shortly after the end of the Second Exodus, Ezra gathered the people together in a great open space and read them the Law as found in the Torah. They solemnly committed themselves to obeying the Law.
When we were baptized, we were brought out of the exile of original sin, and our godparents promised on our behalf that we would keep Christ’s light burning within us by obeying Jesus’ command to love one another as he has loved us. How are we doing on keeping that baptismal promise?
Lord Jesus, help us to “let our light shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our heavenly Father.” (Gospel Alleluia)