SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL, PRIEST (MEMORIAL)
Our God has not abandoned us.
The priest and scribe Ezra had plenty of reasons to be discouraged. Yes, by God’s grace, his people had been permitted to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. The construction had been completed and the Temple dedicated, despite fierce opposition from the pagan people living among them. But still, when they needed to focus on their special identity as God’s people, the returned exiles had begun to intermarry with these Gentiles and take on their ways.
So Ezra’s heartfelt prayer laments the sins of God’s people. But he doesn’t just lament. He also calls to mind the magnitude of God’s mercy. Yes, the people needed to repent, but they could do so only because God hadn’t given up on them. He was still working out his plan for his chosen people, and they could count on his overwhelming compassion.
It all hinged on the one truth that filled their present moment and gave them hope—a truth that Ezra focused on as he prayed. Right now, God was with them. In the midst of their sin, he had remained faithful to them. Even as they were adopting the practices of the nations that surrounded them, the Lord didn’t abandon them. Ezra knew that God would first need to get his people’s attention and draw them back to himself. But he trusted that God would do it. The Lord would help them rebuild what they had ruined. Ezra believed that God’s good plan for his people had not changed.
It’s a message that can give us hope, too. Like those returning from exile, we might have missed the mark. We might have forgotten that we are God’s sons and daughters, and that this truth should make a difference in our lives. And like them, we, too, can return to the Lord. We can count on God’s unconditional mercy to accompany us every step of our journey. As the old song says, “I may not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”
Even in your messiness, even when you’re not sure what’s in store for your future, you can fix your hope on this truth: right now, God is with you.
“Merciful and loving God, I trust that you are with me at this very moment.”
(Psalm) Tobit 13:2-4, 7-8