What Can Nehemiah Teach Us About Fidelity?

What are the Dangers of Not Living the Faith?

What Can Nehemiah Teach Us About Fidelity?
Ezra Reads the Torah.gif - The Work of God's Children

What Can Nehemiah Teach Us About Fidelity? What are the Dangers of Not Living the Faith? Deacon James M. Sinacore shares some thoughts in his homily delivered at St. John Vianney Parish, Northlake Illinois, on January 23, 2021, the Third Sunday of the Word of God.


When I read Holy Scripture, there are some passages that really grab my attention.

For whatever reason, some accounts take hold of my imagination and I can clearly see in my mind’s eye the events that are described.

Today’s excerpt from Nehemiah is one of those passages. What is happening here?

The 70-year captivity of the Southern Israelite Kingdom has come to an end. And although Israelites are back in their homeland, Jerusalem is still a Persian territory under the rule of King Artaxerxes.

Nehemiah is a high-ranking servant in the Persian court and informs the king that the prior destruction of Jerusalem has never been attended to … even though the Israelites have been back there for generations.

God moves the heart of King Artaxerxes and lets Nehemiah go to Jerusalem to organize the rebuilding of the city. While this is going on, Ezra the priest works to revive the faith of the Israelites, which has fallen away over the years. And what absolutely fascinates me is how the behavior of the Israelites mirrors what we do at Mass today even though the time period of our reading from Nehemiah is somewhere between 500 to 600 BC.

The text says that the assembly consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand just like we see at Mass today.  They listened attentively to the book of the law, just as we do during the Liturgy of the Word.

Ezra read the scroll from a prepared platform that had him standing higher than any of the people. Our modern-day lecterns in a church are designed in the very same way. The text goes on to say that when Ezra opened the scroll and the people all stood, just like we do at the Gospel. And they answered “Amen, Amen” just like we have responses after the readings from the Old and New Testaments.

Finally, the text says that Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.

What was he doing? He was giving a homily or a sermon, just like we do today. And the people were responding emotionally with their hands raised above their heads. Some even prostrated in humility with their faces to the ground.

The text describes a people who were on fire for God. And you would think that they were set for life. It appears as though their faith became strong and would carry them straight to the grave. And yet, this is not what happened.

We learn later in the Book of Nehemiah that he left for Persia and then returned to Jerusalem some years later, only to find that the faith had been debased. The Israelites had once again allowed their faith to be corrupted by the pagans living in adjoining lands. Instead of spreading the faith that was given to the Israelites by divine revelation, they accepted man-made ways of life and belief.

This is what caused the destruction of Israel in the first place. This is why the Northern Kingdom was decimated and the Southern Kingdom was dominated by the Persians.

The Israelites did not hold fast to their faith. They intermarried with pagans. They compromised the teachings of God that had come through the prophets. They got lazy. They let important things slip away. And they let the hardships and common events of the day take priority in their lives.

All of this teaches us that having a liturgical form of worship, coupled with an emotional response is not enough to live a good faith life.

Liturgy is important. We have many beautiful liturgies within the Catholic faith. But for us to benefit from the faith that has been passed on to us, we have to embrace it. We can’t just go through the motions. We have to actively learn as much as we can about the faith and live it out every day.

We cannot allow ourselves to grow weak in our faith by the problems that face us — even those that are caused by people within the Church that we hear about day after day.

We cannot allow ourselves to lose our faith over negative experiences that we encounter in life — especially those that come by way of other Christians.

Believe me. Negative experiences have been happening to Christians since day one. Sometimes things get so bad that we want to cry out, “Where is God in all this mess!”

But we have to remember that Christ the bridegroom has provided for His bride for the last 2000 years. The Church never would have survived beyond the early period of Christians being thrown to the lions unless the power of Christ were at work.

This is what our Lord was speaking about when He was in the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah where it says:  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me […] He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, / to let the oppressed go free […].

He wasn’t just talking about the homeless or those with severe limitations like blindness. He was talking about you and me, who even though we love God have to live in a world that is burdened with the devastating effects of sin.

Hold fast to the faith. Continue coming to Mass so that you can receive the spiritual nourishment that opens our eyes to truth and strengthens our will.

Go to confession so that you can be forgiven of the sin that wears all of us down like a never-ending grinding stone. Receive and revel in the other sacraments so that you can achieve what God wants for all of us /… eternal life in heaven.

Problems in life will occur. Disappointments will happen, the worst of which may come by way of people who are from within the Church.

There will be times when we will want to throw in the towel. But we must not do what the early Israelites did and drift from the faith. That is no answer to life’s problems.

Our faith is the only hope we have for eternal happiness.  So always remember to stand firm in the faith and do not be saddened, for rejoicing in the Lord must be our strength.