> All the readings together
> Ezra 9:5-9
> Tobit 13:2,3-4,7-8
In the first reading at today's Mass we continue to read from the Old Testament Book of Ezra. As mentioned yesterday, Ezra accompanied Nehemiah as they returned to Jerusalem after the great Babylonian Exile. Nehemiah was in charge of rebuilding the wall. Ezra was in charge of rebuilding the faith.
The Chosen People were exiled namely due to their sin. Over time they had forgotten about God. They began to worship other Gods. They began to live as their own people, not God's people.
As Ezra the Priest re-enters Jerusalem it is fitting that the first thing that he does is repent. Sin is what led to the Exile and repentance is what would lay the foundation for their return. Thus, we hear Ezra's prayer today:
"My God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to raise my face to you, my God, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven. From the time of our ancestors even to this day our guilt has been great, and for our wicked deeds we have been delivered, we and our kings and our priests, into the hands of the kings of foreign lands, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to disgrace, as is the case today. And now, only a short time ago, mercy came to us from the Lord, our God, who left us a remnant and gave us a stake in his holy place; thus our God has brightened our eyes and given us relief in our slavery. For slaves we are, but in our slavery our God has not abandoned us; rather, he has turned the good will of the kings of Persia toward us. Thus he has given us new life to raise again the house of our God and restore its ruins, and has granted us a protective wall in Judah and Jerusalem." (Ezra 9:5-9)God was doing something new in the life of Israel. Ezra knew it and wanted to start off right: he starts by repenting, asking for a clean heart so that when this new season began he would be free to follow God.
The same is true in our lives. Whenever God is doing something new in our lives the most authentic thing for us to do is to ask for forgiveness so that we too might have a clean heart to follow God. Why?
Whenever God is doing something new in our lives new horizons open, new opportunities abound, new possibilities are before us. Right then and there we have the opportunity to follow God immediately so that God can draw us deeper. The new season is His gift to us. The new season is filled with grace. If we are able to follow God right then and there we will be able to receive all the graces He desires to give us. Our lives will be filled with more: more peace, more joy, more freedom.
What prevents us from following God in fullness is the same thing that prevents us from receiving everything that God wants to give us: us. We often prevent the breakthroughs we long for. Our hearts often are not able to receive all the grace. Where our hearts are filled with sin we will struggle to follow God. Where our hearts are filled with unforgiveness we will struggle to receive all the graces awaiting us in a new season.
Ezra knew the new. Ezra knew the blessings that were waiting. Thus, he asks for forgiveness; he repents for the sins of his past, as well as the sins of his people.
We too have a new horizon before us. We too have a new season of grace right before us. Two days ago, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Shelton Fabre as our new Bishop. There is a new season of grace in our midst, right now. Are we going to be able follow God unreservedly? Are we going to be able to receive all the graces God wants to give us? If so, we must learn from Ezra. This new blessing from God elicits from our heart the desire to repent for anything in our past that prevent us from maximally receiving everything God wants to give us.
Since the new season in our Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux involves a new Bishop, I challenge us all today, in the spirit of Ezra, to look deep within our hearts. Is there unforgiveness in our hearts from the past? Is there unforgiveness in our hearts toward the Church? Is there unforgiveness in our hearts toward Bishops? Is there unforgiveness in our hearts toward a specific Bishop? If so, perhaps now ... today ... right now ... is the time to ask yourself: Are you ready to move forward in this new season with a free heart? Are you ready to receive everything God wants to give us in this new blessing?
God is doing something new ... are you able and ready to receive it? If so now ... today ... right now ... God is calling you to repent. God is calling you to let go. God is calling to freedom. Where do you need to ask for forgiveness? What will help you be free to receive the new blessings God wants to give us?
GETTING TO KNOW OUR NEW BISHOP: BISHOP FABRE