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BEWARE OF MAKING EMPTY PROMISES

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Neh. 2:1-8 & Lk. 9:57-62

Nehemiah was a Jew who had risen to some prominence in the court of King Artaxterxes of Persia but his heart was in his beloved city of Jerusalem. He received permission from the king to return there where practical problems needed to be solved.

Nehemiah was not a man of mere sentiment but a man of action, a person who had the kind of complete dedication called for by Jesus in the Gospel. He saw the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem as necessary for the protection of the city and the temple. He also introduced administrative reforms for the purpose of inculcating the values of the Jewish religion. And he was a layman!

He stands as a magnificent example for all lay people today: he was generous in dedicating his talents and his energies to the service of God and His people. His life serves as a reminder to each of us in the modern world that, at our Baptism a strong commitment was made on our behalf that we would be a follower of Jesus, and this calls for the kind of total dedication He demands in today's Gospel.

Involvement in ministries takes many forms. Some people have been devoting themselves to the role of extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers visiting the sick to take Holy Communion to them. Others act as readers at Mass or perform liturgical functions. There are individuals who use their talent at book-keeping to look after parish accounts, giving the priest more time to perform other spiritual duties. This is as it should be. The truth is that all Catholics, by virtue of their Baptism, should be involved in the service of God and His people. Such is the example of Nehemiah.

How many of us have been guilty of making empty promises? Many are relatively harmless. Children promise to clean up their room but then forget all about it. Dads promise to fix their child's toy but the day goes by without the job being done. Friends promise each other to get together for lunch but never seem to find the time to do it.

But there are other empty promises that are hardly so trivial. A husband promises his wife that he will stop drinking but does nothing about it. A boss promises his workers a raise but never delivers on the deal. A friend promises to keep a confidence but tells the story to others without compunction.

Jesus took a dim view of empty promises dismissing them as not worth the breath that it took to utter them. On His way to Jerusalem, there were some who promised undying devotion - but first they had family duties which needed attention. Jesus would have had the same reply to all, 'Don't promise what you are not willing to deliver. If you put your hand to the plough, don’t look back.' In fact some of us can feel so good about promising something that we fail to worry much about doing it. But Jesus reminds us that a promise broken only compounds our wrongdoing. Not only have we shirked our duty but we have also broken our word in making an empty promise.

Lord Jesus, help us to be people who are dedicated to the truth, whose word can always be trusted, and who would never think of breaking a promise.

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