Today’s reading from Nehemiah presents us with a primitive source for the celebration of the Eucharist. The people stand and listen to the Word of God which brings them to tears as they realize that they have failed in their covenant relationship with God. However, Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites tell the people to rejoice and share a meal. We are told that this became an occasion of great joy.
Coincidentally, this evening Franciscans will gather to remember the passing of St. Francis. Though I doubt that any of us will be moved to tears, the readings that we will hear will evoke a kind of sadness as we mark the passing of our founder. However, immediately after our prayers are concluded, we will sit down to table with one another and remember Francis with the joy of a communal meal.
The story of Nehemiah is intimately connected to the period of the Restoration of Israel, a period of great hope. We know that as time passed, the initial fervor of the people for God’s Law was diminished and that many rejected God and the commandments. The commission of the disciples to preach the Good News is also an example of fervor and diminishment. The same can be said about our Franciscan way of life. The day of our investiture was also a day of great hope and expectation. Not all were able to continue along that path. Had friars and religious never lost their fervor for Francis and his way of life, we would have been able to avoid the myriad of reforms that have created so many different Franciscan ways of life.
We remember Mother St. Theodore Guerin today, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence. Her initial fervor and charism was to trust in God’s providential care. Her community carries on her legacy and stands as a reminder of the Gospel admonition to trust in God as we gaze upon the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field.
The Eucharist is one way to bolster our fervor and our resolution to live according to God’s Word. Like the people in the first reading today, first we listen to God’s word and then we are invited to feed upon the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are fed by the Word and fed by the consecrated bread and wine. Partaking of God’s nourishment through Word and Sacrament, we become not only receivers, but bearers of the Good News to others.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator