Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ezra 9:5-9; Luke 9:1-6)
In the middle of the American Civil War, President Lincoln signed a proclamation calling for a day of public prayer and humiliation. The document recognized that while God had been so generous in His blessings upon the United States, the nation had forgotten Him. This spirit, notable for its absence today, is similar to the sentiment expressed by Ezra in the first reading.
The issue causing Ezra’s public repentance with the approval of the people is the apostasy of many Israelites. In great numbers Jerusalem’s men have taken foreign wives and converted to pagan idolatry. Ezra knows that faith is both precious and elusive. Unless the people take strides to practice and preserve their faith, it will slip from their possession like a fish held out of water.
Few seem to have the stomach for private penance, much less public demonstrations of remorse. Friday is a day of penance on the books, but even church organizations do not hold back from celebrating on that day. Yet penance is more building up the self than tearing it down. It acknowledges God as the supreme source of a people’s strength and appeals to Him to correct their faults.