Imagine the tragedy and trauma experienced by the Jews as they were exiled from their own country. They would be banished from their land, the Temple, their livelihood for many years to come. As they moved into a foreign land and once settled they sought to live life again. There was a huge transition that they were to undergo. They were uprooted and had to survive with hardship and great suffering unfamiliar territory. For how many years they must have waited to see their mother land again? And as every year passed I wonder if their hope diminished. By the time of the return of the exiles many had been established in their foreign lands, many had adapted to a new culture and way of life.
For many, having been influenced by the new culture, the God of Israel was absent from their minds. They adapted anew to a foreign land. They became accustomed to cultic worship, paganism, and various cults of the foreign land. Yet God was into renewal, cleansing them from moral and cultic impurity. We see here the kindness and mercy of a loving God willing to forgive and heal the people that belong to Him. By doing this benevolent action God was revealing to the nations who God was. In this reading we see a God of the covenant whose call is irrevocable. Yes for a time they were exiled, but this was to show the people of Israel the glory of God.
How it must have sounded to them to hear the words the prophet speaks to them (1st reading). What was their reaction when they heard God tell them they were going to be brought back to their own land? They were to be restored in heart and mind, made new again by the sovereign action of God
Whenever I meditate on this reading I am always amazed at the tremendous goodness of God. Notice how many times God speaks in the first person. God is always the one who takes initiative. God is the One who will prove his holiness, God will bring the people to their own land, and God will cleanse and wash them from their sin and impurities. God will put a Spirit in them. God will do it! God does everything! It’s up to us to surrender to the grace of God. We see here a God who remembers his people.
God wants to do the same with us. God wants to make our heart and mind new. He wants to fill us with his spirit which is the transforming and power within that bring us in to right relationship. All of us have been exiled, banished from his Kingdom. As St. Paul says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Yet God is into renewal and restoration. Let us open to his spirit that initiates healing and restoration. Let us return again to the Father from the exile of sin and live again in the land promised to us.

Have you given into sin? Do you feel banished from the presence of God?

Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and put a new and right spirit within me. Amen