In today’s first Mass reading, God promises through the prophet Ezechiel that he will gather the children of Israel “from all sides to bring them back to their land” and that he will “make them one nation on the land.” They will be delivered from their sins and cleaned “so that they may be my people.”
We heard a similarly rosy prophesy in our first reading on Thursday, where God promised Abraham that he would maintain his covenant with Abraham and his people. Got promised, “I am making you the father of a host of nations. I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings shall stem from you.” God promised to give to Abraham and his descendants “the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession.”
Fast forward to the time of Jesus, a time when the Jewish people had reason to be discouraged. These were God’s chosen people. They had been promised great things by Abraham, Exechiel and the rest of the prophets – they would be the leaders of all nations, they would enjoy great peace and the worship of the one true God was to spread from them to all the peoples of the earth.
Instead, at the time of Jesus, the Jews were ruled by the Romans and forced to pay tribute to Caesar. Their lives were lives of hardship and they sought deliverance from that hardship.
Into that environment, comes Jesus. Not with a message of worldly power, but with a message of hope.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God; blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me – rejoice and be glad.
Do not store up treasures on earth where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven.
Do not worry about your life. Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin. Yet not one of them falls to the ground without yoru Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
I am the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.
I could go on and on. Jesus brought promise. He brought hope. And he brings the same promise and hope to us that he did to the people he encountered while he walked on earth.
The hope we have been given.
The hope we are meant to convey to the world.