Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

Share On

Memorial of Saint Jerome, doctor of the Church, who died in Bethlehem in 420. He translated the Bible into the Latin language. Prayer that the voice of the Scripture may be heard in every language.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Nehemiah 2, 1-8

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, since I was in charge of the wine, I took the wine and offered it to the king. Now, he had never seen me looking depressed before.

So the king said to me, 'Why are you looking depressed? You are not sick! This must be a sadness of the heart.' Thoroughly alarmed by this,

I said to the king, 'May the king live for ever! How can I not look depressed when the city where the tombs of my ancestors are lies in ruins and its gates have been burnt down?'

The king then said to me, 'What would you like me to do?' Praying to the God of heaven,

I said to the king, 'If the king approves and your servant enjoys your favour, send me to Judah, to the city of the tombs of my ancestors, so that I can rebuild it.'

The king -- with the queen sitting beside him-said, 'How long will your journey take, and when will you come back?' Once I had given him a definite time, the king approved my mission.

I then said to the king, 'If the king approves, may I be given orders for the governors of Transeuphrates to let me pass through on my way to Judah?

Also an order for Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, to supply me with timber for the beams of the gates of the citadel of the Temple, for the city walls and for the house which I am to occupy?' These the king granted me because the kindly hand of my God was over me.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Nehemiah is distressed for his people and his city’s condition. The city had no walls and they were in an extremely weak position for an enemy attack. Every city used to have walls. Lacking walls meant a lack of safe cohabitation. In the book of Revelation, following the book of Ezekiel (Ez 48:30-35), the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, had a wall: "It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which names were inscribed, (the names) of the twelve tribes of the Israelites." (Rev 21:12). In the books of the prophets, like Isaiah or Jeremiah, Jerusalem was the symbol of the city where God lived. In Psalm 87 the origin of every person is in Jerusalem, for it is the city of God, the home of most high: "of Zion it must be said: ‘They all were born here. The Most High confirms this’" (Sal 87:5). We understand in a deeper way Nehemiah’s concern for an unsafe city, wounded by destruction and desolation. Yet, his intention is not simple: first, he has to convince the Persian king Artaxerxes that proves easy. The Persian Empire, unlike that of Babylon, is tolerant with conquered nations, and tries to save the unity through allowances that facilitate religious observance. So, Artaxerxes has a good disposition towards Nehemiah’s request, and allows him to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. The neighbouring peoples, instead, look at Nehemiah as a possible threat to the balance of power established after the end of the Kingdom of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem. Sanballat was perhaps the governor of Syria; Tobias was an Ammonite, and Ghesem an Arab. This opposition takes place in the first phase of the period after the exile, when the inhabitants of Judea, the remnants from Babylon, try to rebuild their religious and civil life. This chapter shows the troubles of a little people who try to come back to their life and worship, while their faith is unfairly considered a threat and a danger, rather than a richness and a support in the cohabitation.