Saturday of week 26 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on Bar 4:5-12, 27-29

In this passage Jerusalem is personified as a widow, both lamenting and consoling her children in captivity. It is a message of encouragement and hope. “Take courage, my people, memorial of Israel!” Israel was originally the name given to Jacob but later was applied to the people who were his descendants. All the Israelites were traditionally descended from the Jacob’s twelve sons, each one of them becoming the patriarch of a tribe bearing their name. Israel had been sold to foreign nations not with the idea of their extermination but as the result of their provoking their God. They had angered their Creator “by offering sacrifices to demons”. The whole history of Israel, especially after settling in Canaan, was a long record of idolatry, following the religious practices of their pagan neighbours and indulging in all kinds of immoral behaviour. They entirely forgot the God who had reared them and brought sorrow on Jerusalem who had nurtured them. When Jerusalem saw God’s anger falling on her children and saw them being taken away into captivity in Babylon, she went into mourning. “God sent me great sorrow; I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity.” It was God’s punishment for their countless infidelities. Jerusalem had nurtured them so carefully and now “in tears and sorrow, I watched them go away”. But it was the result of their own choices. Experiencing the terrible loneliness of a widow deserted by her own children (a terrible thing to happen in those times), she begs her neighbours not to gloat over her. “I am bereaved because of the sins of my children, who turned away from the law of God.” In the last part of the reading, Jerusalem urges her children to call again on God’s name. “He who brought this on you will remember you.” It was by their own choice that they had strayed far from God; let them now turn back and search for him with all their might. The same God who brought such disasters on them because of their sin, will – if they turn back – “rescue you and give you joy without end”. We always pay the price for our sinfulness when, like the Prodigal Son, we wander off in our futile search for happiness in pleasure. The suffering that comes from sin, which is always a violation of our nature, is not God’s direct will. It is the natural outcome of words and acts which are evil, bringing hurt to ourselves and others. But the Father is always waiting. Always ready to be reconciled. We have only to turn back and the warmest of welcomes is waiting for us.

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