Let’s look at the history behind this first reading from the Book of Ezra. Back in 600 B.C. Jeremiah the Prophet had seen that the people of Jerusalem were so deep in sin that there was no saving them. He predicted that Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar would conquer them, then, carry them off for seventy years of servitude in Babylon. As slaves there they were put to work digging canals and building dikes between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
At the end of the seventy years predicted by Jeremiah, the Persians under king Cyrus II of Persia conquered the Babylonians. Today’s reading tells how Cyrus, when he became aware of the unjust plight of the enslaved people from Jerusalem, issued a proclamation setting the Jews free, and supplying them with means for rebuilding their temple.
In Chapter 44 of Isaiah God referred to Cyrus as “my shepherd who fulfills my every wish.” In light of the distaste the Jews had for all Gentiles, that is an amazing thing to read in their Bible. From this story we can take the lesson that non-Catholic leaders might be God’s chosen agents for accomplishing the good he has in store for us.