“Today is holy to the Lord your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”
Like the people gathered by Ezra in the first reading, there are many reasons we might weep when we hear the words of the law. Though we profess to be a nation of immigrants, our laws become increasingly more harsh, punitive, and exclusive toward immigrants. Our nation turns to its own security over the common humanity of the stranger among us. We excuse this behavior by calling attention to the need to care for our own, to protect ourselves from the unknown threat, and use the existence of these very laws as the reasons we ought to do nothing. We keep the stranger strange so that we may not know anything that could be called strange among us.
This is troubling to us because it is, in fact, the law that is strange. In the Gospel, in reading the Scriptures, Jesus proclaims that the law has been fulfilled. Yet it is a different law—one directed at liberating captives, bringing glad tidings to the oppressed, and setting captives free. It is a law that says the stranger is welcome—and that someday, we will no longer have a concept of stranger because we will all be one human family. It is our aspiration—the community we are called to build.
Ezra read from the authentic law—the law of God—the law that said that if we are together, we will not be sad but will rejoice. In our rejoicing, we will allot portions to those who had nothing prepared. We will give to the one called stranger so that we will no longer have any strangers. In the hearing of this law we will see that the law of God, these are spirit and life. And we will rejoice and build a more inclusive community.
We are invited to turn our hearts to those in our lives—the living Ezra or Jesus among us—so that we will be ready to rejoice, to sort out the broken law of humans from the living law of God, so that all might thrive and be fulfilled. And, on that day, not only will we rejoice, but we will be one. We won’t need to keep the stranger strange because in fact no one will be ever considered strange again.