Third Sunday (Year C). When adults attempt to teach young children how to ride a bike, they sometimes cry out decidedly unhelpful comments like - 'just keep pedaling' or 'ride straight' or 'don't crash into that parked car.' When we think back on our first attempts at riding a bike, we may have very vivid memories of scrapped knees or worse. Chances are the comments that are shouted at us are also not all that helpful in actually mastering the art at hand. What is interesting is that at some point we do actually begin to master the art, and all of the instructions begin to be internalised. At some level, the words that we have heard simply become part of our lives. Perhaps it is something like what we read at the beginning of John's Gospel ('And the word became flesh' - John 1:14)
In the first reading from Nehemiah, something similar is happening. The Israelites who are returning from Exile in Babylon and are attempting to reestablish life in the once great city of Jerusalem. The temple has been rebuilt (515 BCE) and the walls are now finally rebuilt (445 BCE) but Ezra realises that more is needed - and that is a re-commitment to the law of the Lord. So Ezra gathers the whole people and reads the book of the law to them so that they know what it is that they believe. This is the first step to their internalising the word so they can live it out within their renewed understanding of their commitment.
Recorded at NET training (Iona College campsite, Peregian, QLD)