SAINTS COSMAS AND DAMIAN, MARTYRS (OPTIONAL MEMORIAL)
The children of Israel . . . celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.
Can you imagine being a member of the Church but not having access to a church?
The sack of Jerusalem in the year 586 BC was a horrifying experience for the Jewish people. Their city and beautiful Temple were destroyed, and most of the population was force-marched to Babylon. During their years in exile, a faithful remnant continued to worship God and uphold his laws as best they could. Their faith, even in this hostile environment, remained so strong that even some of their captors were impressed with their devotion (Ezra 1:1-6; Nehemiah 2:1-6). Today’s first reading gives us a glimpse of the joy that these Israelites felt when they finally returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt their Temple.
Today, a great many Christians can identify with the Jews in exile. These modern-day believers don’t have access to a church, either. There are those who live in countries where Christianity is outlawed. There are those stationed on the front lines in the military. There are those in prison or homebound who don’t have access to the sacraments. And there are those who live in areas of the world where there aren’t enough priests to minister to all the faithful.
In each of these situations, a Christian could begin to feel lonely or distant from the Lord. Yet we know that God is especially close to those who feel isolated or who do not have the blessings of a church community for support. He knows that anyone who holds fast to their faith is just as heroic as those faithful Israelites who continued to worship God in their exile.
So here’s a message for all of you reading this magazine who are in a kind of “Eucharistic exile.” Know that your fellow readers see you; we love you and we bless you. Please pray for the rest of us, that we never take for granted the life we have. And we will pray for you, that Jesus will be especially close to you, just as God was close to the Israelites in exile!
“Jesus, please take special care of my brothers and sisters who don’t have easy access to your Eucharistic presence or to a body of believers to support them.”
Ezra 6:7-8, 12, 14-20