The Responsorial Psalm voices life-giving hope: “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us” (Psalm 79).
The restoration of Judaism in Jerusalem really began in Babylon, when the exiled Jews were spurred by the prophets to repentance, which means “a change of mind.” The gift of the prophets, as we see in Baruch 1:15-22, was first to identify the cause of what the people were suffering; then to offer hope, based on their own intimate knowledge of God’s “steadfast love” and mercy; and on the basis of this to call them to repentance.
Baruch calls the people to admit that they brought all their evils on themselves because “we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice.” But God’s promise gives hope, leading to repentance:
In the land of their captivity they shall have a change of heart…. and I will bring them back …. I will be their God, and they shall be my people… (2: 31-35).
Baruch goes on the praise the law of Moses as a way of supreme prudence and wisdom. He then restates the basic principle of life: “All who cling [to God’s law] will live, but those will die who forsake her.” Then he describes the glory of a converted, restored Jerusalem: “For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship” (5: 3-4). This inspires hope-fed prayer: “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us!”
In Luke 10: 13-16 we see that some rejected the preaching of Jesus himself, even backed up by miracles.
Woe to you, Chorazin!… Bethsaida!… If the miracles worked in your midst had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have reformed in sackcloth and ashes!
Jesus warns us that if we are not alert we will destroy ourselves just as the generations before us did. Israel’s history is a recurring pattern: they kept God’s law and were happy; then they got arrogant and ignored the law. Disaster followed — over and over again.
One glance at modern America should convince us that we are in the arrogant stage. We have wealth and power, seek more and more, and think our wealth and power will protect us. Our politicians give lip service to religion; a large (but decreasing) number of intellectuals despise it; policy-setters in business and the media mainly ignore it. And most of us are doing nothing about it. If Christians do not stand up and exert leadership where it is needed, our civilization will die. We need to hope, pray and act: “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us!”
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Take hope. Show it by working for change.