All the leading priests and the people also were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abomination of the nations; and they polluted the house of the Lord that he had consecrated in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy.
They burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious vessels. He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had made up for its sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfil seventy years.
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom and also declared in a written edict: "Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up."
Response: Let my tongue be silent, if I ever forget you!
By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat and wept
On the willows that grew there
we hung up our harps. (R./)
It was there that they asked us
our captors for songs,
our oppressors for joy.:
"Sing for us" they said "the songs of Zion!" (R./)
How could we sing a song of the Lord
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be forgotten! (R./)
May my tongue cleave to my palate
if I remember you not,
If I place not Jerusalem
ahead of my joy.(R./)
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God- not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."
Have you noticed the types of phrases we use when describing something wonderful? I catch myself saying things like being 'over the moon' or 'on cloud-nine.' A friend talks about being in the 'seventh heaven!' Now, that admission may say a lot both of us, but I can't help thinking that our deepest experiences are those that have a power to lift us up. Such experiences take us out of ourselves. They uplift us and we perceive things differently.
Jesus is always inviting us to see things differently. When Nicodemus sought out Jesus, he was in the dark " both really and symbolically. He couldn't see clearly. In the years that followed this late night conversation, Nicodemus became a follower of Jesus and, step by step, was drawn to see things differently. At last he finally did see. When at the end, Jesus was really and truly lifted up, Nicodemus was not too far away.
When we meditate on the crucifix and participate in the Eucharist we also see Jesus lifted up. Perhaps today as I lift my eyes to see him, I might ponder on the mystery of suffering and exaltation and wonder at the love that is lifted up and draws us ever closer, uplifting us as well. (Kathryn Williams)