In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared: "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 in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people - may their God be with them! - are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel - he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem."
The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites - everyone whose spirit God had stirred - got ready to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbours aided them with silver vessels, with gol, with goods, with animals, and with valuable gifts, besides all that was freely offered.
Jesus said in a parable: "No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away."
For the next three weeks the weekday readings are from the early postexilic literature that was centred on the rebuilt temple, the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Baruch, Jonah, Malachi and Joel. While the wisdom writers pay little attention to the temple, the Jews who returned from Babylon to resettle in Israel urgently consider the role of the temple in their lives. This era is generally known as the Second Temple period.
We are introduced to this period (from 539 B.C. onward,) by the Book of Ezra. The returning exiles had to leave most of their property behind when they headed back to Israel. We know that life in Babylon (a province of Persia, conquered by king Cyrus) had become prosperous in that period. The Jews who never returned eventually produced the famous Babylonian Talmud, still revered by devout Jews. To return to the homeland meant a drastic decision for the Lord. This action was like taking the lamp from under a covering and place it on a lampstand. It allowed others to walk in the beam of its light. People can be greatly enriched, if we leave everything behind us for the Lord's sake; if we seek God unreservedly, all will be given to us.
When Jesus speaks about lighting a lamp, we have to think in terms of a lamp containing oil which had a wick coming from the oil which could be lit. Many such oil lamps from those days have been recovered in the Mediterranean basin. Such lamps were lit to give light when darkness came. As Jesus says , no one would light such a lamp and then cover it with a bowl or put it under a bed, for that would make no sense.
The image suggests that if the lamp of faith is lit in a human life, it is not meant to be covered or hidden; rather we must allow it to shed light. We must allow the light of our faith to shine through how we live, what we do and how we do it. If we are to do that, we must nurture that light of faith. One of the ways we nurture the light of faith is by listening to the Lord's word. Jesus says, "Take care how you hear, for anyone who has will be given more." By listening to his word, the light of faith will grow more brightly; we then allow that light to shine through how we live our lives.