Nehemiah 2 : 1-8 “…‘How could I not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been eaten out by fire?’ The king asked me, ‘What is it then that you wish?’ I prayed to the God of heaven and then answered the king’…”
Psalm 137: 1-6 “…Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!”
Luke 9: 57-62 “…‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’...”
Memorial St. Wenceslaus – 907-929 A.D., became the Patron Saint of the Bohemian people and of former Czechoslovakia. Young Wenceslaus was brought up by his saintly paternal Grandmother Ludmilla. After his father the Duke of Bohemia died, Wenceslaus’ own mother and brother sided with the anti-Christian political party. But Wenceslaus came to power and is credited with establishing a Christian rule as well as initializing peace negotiations with Germany. He was slain while on his way to Mass by his own brother and his followers.
The readings today are a mix of stories about loyalty to a king, loyalty to land and the people, and loyalty to God. In the first reading in the Book of Nehemiah, we gain insight into Nehemiah’s personality, his respect for his King and his love for his people. In the Collegeville Commentary Bible for the Old Testament, the author points out that Nehemiah uses a masterpiece of diplomacy in asking the King to give him leave of absence to help restore his people and their land. They point out that is was this King’s withholding of resources that disallowed the Jewish efforts to rebuild their protective wall. Because Nehemiah can not disguise his true feelings of sadness and when asked why he is not cheerful, he tells the King the city where his ancestors are buried lies in ruins. I most appreciate that Nehemiah pauses before he answers the King and prays to God for the words. And of course the King asks what he would like, and Nehemiah asks if he can be released from his duty to go and help with the restoration of the wall and its city. He never blames the King for his actions, and the King takes pity and gives him full access.
In the Gospel reading in Luke we are witnessing Jesus’ interaction to several whom He meets along the way to Jerusalem and His call to discipleship. We can each see ourselves in one of these responses. To the first He calls, it appears the person is fully available and ready to follow Jesus, and Jesus tells him he will be less secure than even the birds of the air or the foxes, who have dens. To the next who wants to bury his Father before he comes to follow Christ, Jesus says let the dead bury the dead; certainly a case for calling with a sense of urgency. And to the last who wants to say goodbye to family first, Jesus says if you have to look back once you put your hand to the plow, you are not “fit for the Kingdom of God”. Once again referring to the Collegeville Bible Commentary for the New Testament, the authors remind us that the Prophet Elijah gave permission to Elisha to bid good-bye to his family, but Jesus is emphasizing that His call to the Reign of God is even more important.
Today’s readings along with the story of the good St. Wenceslaus, point out that our Faith may call us to split from familial beliefs. In another place Jesus tells us our Faith will pit us against family and friends. It is a painful experience; but on some level don’t we all wish that we could truly hold One Faith. Some areas of different interpretation hurt more than others. I myself have experienced a separation with some family members over the topic of abortion, and to a lesser extent for family choosing a different path for their Faith for now. I have found it to be a great opportunity to hold that person, and for that matter myself, up in prayer for some healing. I am always praying for enlightenment, to better understand how much Jesus loves each one of us. This helps tremendously and reminds me where I stand not as judge, but as a follower of Christ. Not the big cheese, just a little cracker.
Dear Lord help us to remember the step Nehemiah took before he responded in asking You for your input. How do you want us to serve You and Your Kingdom today? Help us to love every one You place in our midst today, so that we can show them Jesus in their midst. Amen
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