Archive for October 23rd, 2017

Nehemiah 11: Re-Peopling

Monday, October 23, 2017

James Tissot: Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod

The list we read today is similar to the one we find in 1 Chronicles 9 with a number of differences; still it relates, and perhaps magnifies, the struggle we find when we attempt to recover after catastrophe . . . just as the Israelites re-peopled Jerusalem after exile.  It shows the people in a mode of compliance following their re-commitment to the covenant, much like a recalcitrant child who becomes manageable, and even docile, after a disturbing break with parents.  We humans seem incapable of having much memory when it comes to adhering to our promises; yet God remains always faithful . . . and God always keeps promises. There would be no need to repopulate Jerusalem if the people had adhered to their agreement with God in the first place; yet here we are with the story of a people who turn and return.

In today’s reading, we realize that there would be no need to renegotiate details or to remember who belonged to which tribe if the Israelites had remained faithful. There would be no need to redeem land, reclaim property and rebuild walls if they had lived their promise rather than pretend. Still the returnees struggle to keep balance, and to remember the details of land distribution as originally promised with God.  They tussle with one another, trying to be open and honest.

Here we see a people taking meticulous care with names, positions, professions and locations. They are intent on regaining what they have lost; yet, is it possible to restore all that is gone? The answer lies with Jesus who allows us to be present to him no matter our circumstances. Jesus always redeems.  Jesus always allows us to return.  Jesus always calls us to transformation. In today’s reflection in THE MAGNIFICAT ADVENT COMPANION by Nancy Valko, she closes with this thought: It is when we truly open our minds and our hearts that we learn Jesus never stops telling us what we need to hear. The people of Israel had stopped listening to and for God, and we see the consequence.  They lose all they have, and are taken into exile.  Upon their return, they renew their vows but, sadly, we know the rest of the story.  Shortly after the death of Christ they lose even the little we see them gain in today’s Noontime. And so we consider . . .

God is always speaking.  Do we always listen?

Jesus is always healing.  Do we always care?

The Spirit is always abiding.  Do we always feel the presence of God?

When we were growing up and might complain that “we got nothing out of going to church,” one of my parents would usually reply, “And how much did you take with you when you went?” A good question.  And it is one we will want to ask ourselves as we consider Christ’s gift, his offer to turn and return, his call to re-people the empty places in our lives, his invitation to celebrate his coming.

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 13, 2010.


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