First Reading

Ezra 6:1-22 NRSV

A Reading from the Book of Ezra.

King Darius made a decree, and they searched the archives where the documents were stored in Babylon. But it was in Ecbatana, the capital in the province of Media, that a scroll was found on which this was written: “A record. In the first year of his reign, King Cyrus issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices are offered and burnt offerings are brought; its height shall be sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits, with three courses of hewn stones and one course of timber; let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. Moreover, let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple in Jerusalem, each to its place; you shall put them in the house of God.”“Now you, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and you, their associates, the envoys in the province Beyond the River, keep away; let the work on this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God: the cost is to be paid to these people, in full and without delay, from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province Beyond the River. Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests in Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his children. Furthermore I decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of the house of the perpetrator, who then shall be impaled on it. The house shall be made a dunghill. May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people that shall put forth a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”Then, according to the word sent by King Darius, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what King Darius had ordered. So the elders of the Jews built and prospered, through the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished their building by command of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia; and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. They offered at the dedication of this house of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. Then they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their courses for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.On the fourteenth day of the first month the returned exiles kept the passover. For both the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were clean. So they killed the passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by all who had joined them and separated themselves from the pollutions of the nations of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. With joy they celebrated the festival of unleavened bread seven days; for the Lord had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Second Reading                  

Revelation 5:1-10 NRSV

A Reading from the Revelation to John.

I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:“You are worthy to take the scrolland to open its seals,for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.”

 The Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God.

The Holy Gospel

Matthew 13:10-17 NRSV

A Reading from the Gospel According to Matthew.

The disciples came and asked Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,and you will indeed look, but never perceive.For this people’s heart has grown dull,and their ears are hard of hearing,and they have shut their eyes;so that they might not look with their eyes,and listen with their ears,and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.’But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Psalm 122 NRSV

I was glad when they said to me, *
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Now our feet are standing *
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city *
that is at unity with itself;
To which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, *
the assembly of Israel, to praise the Name of the Lord.
For there are the thrones of judgment, *
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: *
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls *
and quietness within your towers.
For my brethren and companions’ sake, *
I pray for your prosperity.
Because of the house of the Lord our God, *
I will seek to do you good.”

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

 A Reflection 

Am I one of those who look without seeing, or hear without understanding? Jesus speaks in parables to challenge us out of our laziness, seeking the deeper meaning of things. How easy to be distracted, especially nowadays when we feel overwhelmed by too much information and images without any insight.

Jesus calls me blessed and happy, for I am a witness of his presence, unlike many prophets and holier persons who were living in expectation. I ask for a greater awareness of this presence, and for a deep joy in being a member of the Kingdom.

What are the secrets of the Kingdom of God? To know the Lord Jesus personally, to understand his work of salvation on the cross, and to realise that we are infinitely loved. What a privilege it is to know these things!

How blessed I am to have the Holy Scriptures. But as Jesus speaks to me right now, am I listening to him? Am I open to his Word or do I sit with fingers in my ears?

Jesus spoke in parables so that the meaning of his teaching could take root in the lives of those he taught as the message seemed to have escaped from some of them. He hoped that his hearers would receive the message of the kingdom of God anew in their hearts by reflecting on the images he presented.

Are there times when I need to take a step back from the busyness of my life in order to attune myself to the message of Jesus? I ask him now to fill me with a greater awareness of his presence so that I can accept the gifts of love, joy and peace which he offers me.