Ezr 9:5-9; Tobit 13:2-8; Lk 9:1-6
What has the LORD done for us? How has our God revealed himself in our lives? Why should we praise him with full voice? Who among us cannot resonate with the words of our ancestor Tobit found in today’s response to the first reading? Indeed, the LORD scourges and then has mercy. “He casts down to the depths of the nether world, and he brings up from the great abyss.” No human life is without suffering; sometimes that suffering is great. Yet, we are always in the heart of God, and we cannot escape his hand. Even in the pain of our exile, even while we are scattered among the values and powers of this world, the LORD shows us his greatness even there. Here in our land of exile, here while we await his return in glory, we praise him for whom our hearts long. Here in our less than perfect community he shows his power and majesty to a sinful nation. Here and now we bless the LORD! We are his chosen ones, humble and unworthy of his majesty and power. In our exile from our heavenly home we celebrate days of gladness and give him praise. Our prayer today is not unlike that of Ezra who rose up in his wretchedness and fell on his knees, stretching out his hands to the LORD. Only to those who pray so honestly does the Lord Jesus summon and send to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
The beauty of a humble heart and the brightness of a simple soul are revealed in the prayer of the priest Ezra during the time of the evening sacrifice. In his words we hear the honest admission of a sinner who repents, and his repentance gives way to rejoicing. Praying for all the people, even for us, Ezra admits that our wicked deeds are heaped above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven. Indeed, it is for our sins that we have been delivered up to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to disgrace. It is just this kind of honesty that causes us to cry out in every Liturgy, “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.” Yet, it is here at the depths of our humiliation where the Lord brightens our eyes and gives us relief in our servitude. “For slaves we are, but in our servitude our God has not abandoned us…he has given us new life to raise again the house of God and restore its ruins…” We may not be in the same historical circumstances, but we are in the same spiritual state. We do suffer the consequences of sin in our lives. We also suffer, as Saint Paul reflects, to make up in our flesh for that which is lacking in the Body of Christ. Suffering and exile is the only way we share in the redeeming power of the paschal mystery. Again Saint Paul reflects that our suffering is not a waste of time and energy; our suffering hastens the coming of the Kingdom of God. Such a calling we receive new each time we humbly stretch out our hands to the LORD, our God. Each time we honestly pray for mercy we are honestly admitting we absolutely need that which we cannot give ourselves. Without the mercy of the LORD our suffering would truly be just pain and without fruit.
In today’s gospel the Lord Jesus summons the Twelve and gives them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sends them out to proclaim the arrival of God’s Reign. The Lord Jesus summons us again in this Liturgy as he renews our Baptismal Covenant. Indeed, like our ancestors, the Apostles, we are summoned and sent. The Lord Jesus commands us, “Take nothing for the journey.” Do not provide for yourselves he says; I will provide for you all that you need. He is all we need. His acceptance, his approval, his love, will enable us to bear all the rejection of those who do not welcome our good news or us. It is our constant joy to proclaim the good news and cure diseases everywhere. From this encounter with the heavenly liturgy we go forth strengthened and emboldened to continue the mission and ministry of the Lord Jesus. Through him, with him and in him we suffer and serve without any regret and with great rejoicing. “So now consider what he has done for you, and praise him with full voice.”