by Sr. Anne-Catherine Avril, NDS
With the beautiful reading of Nehemia, we are at the time of the return from exile.The Temple and the ramparts of Jerusalem are in process of being rebuilt.
The People have learnt after the destruction of the temple that a house of stone is fragile, and they centre themselves more and more on the Tora .We have here a liturgy of the Word, in open air, with everybody present and not only the priests and the levites: the womenm the men and the children able to understand. There is a translation in arameic because the people in exile were no more familiar with the Hebrew language. And of course translation with explanations, Here is the origin of the targumim and later on of the midrashim
Their eyes are fixed on Esdras who read the Tora from his platform on which he stands. And the ears are attentive.
The people react with enthusiasm with acclamation: Amen, Amen and gestures: Standing, lifting their hands, prostrating. And its ends of course with food and drinks to celebrate the joy of the Tora.
In the gospel, Jesus, probably after the reading of the Torah of Moses ,opens the scroll of Isaiah at the passage which announces the Jubilee year, sign of the messianic time, it is what means in Hebrew: shnat ratzon Year in which the Lord delights, year of pacifying, of reconciliation, marked by the liberation f all: the prisoners, the oppresses, the blind…That is the good news brought to the poor.
And as in Nehemia, the eyes were fixed of Esdras reading the Tora, the eyes of the people in the synagogue are fixed on Jesus, Jesus living word of God who can fulfill the Tora because he studied it, contemplated it, living it up the the end. And he says. Today is fulfilled at your ears. Like in Nehemia, the eyes and the ears are involved : Hear Israel, Shemah, listen, hear understand…
We should read all the psalm 19 ,because it begins with a celebration of Creation: The heaven proclaim the glory of God… and the sun: his rising is from the ends off te heavens and its circuit to the end of them and nothing is hid from his heat. And then the celebration of the Tora which is perfect, who gives life, which enlightens…The Tora is in the life of human being what the sun is for the universe.
How to make, eternal a link with the second reading: The unity in Christ of all the members in their diversity. Let us remember that in The Church of this land the week of the unity of Christians opens tonight.
The Tora gathers all the people without distinction in Nehemia. Christ is making unity among all, not in replacing the Tora, but in assuming it as a living Word of God, eternal and indestructible. Jesus says: today is fulfilled in your hearing this passage of the Scriptures. Today and not yesterday or tomorrow. Each day is this today which invites us to fulfill the Scriptures in working for reconciliation, freedom of all.
Text: Sr. Anne-Catherine Avril, nds