26Sep 26 September, 2019. Thursday of Week 25

1st Reading: Haggai 1:1-8

Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the temple

In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.

Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but nobody is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured, says the Lord.

Responsorial: Psalm 149:1-6, 9

Response: The Lord takes delight in his people.

Sing a new song to the Lord,
his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in its Maker,
let Zion’s sons exult in their king. (R./)

Let them praise his name with dancing,
make music with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people.
He crowns the poor with salvation. (R./)

Let the faithful rejoice in their glory,
shout for joy and take their rest.
Let the praise of God be on their lips,
this honour is for all his faithful. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:7-9

Herod was perplexed about Jesus and became curious to see him

Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen.

Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he wanted to see Jesus.


Sharing the faith

The prophet Haggai instructs the people to fetch lumber and rebuild the house of the Lord. He says it in plain, unadorned Hebrew, whereas other prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke in poetic symbols and parables. But alone of all the prophets, Haggai lived to see his mission accomplished. In 515 B.C. the temple was completed, as we read some days ago. The Jews continued to make progress on the temple, encouraged by the prophets, and finished the building according to the command of God and the decrees of Cyrus and Darius (Ezra 6:14).

Haggai reminds us to put aside pompous airs and address what needs to be done. He also sees the importance of the temple as a place for community and prayer. Without a strong symbol that we are a people of God, with spiritual aspirations, we easily sink into materialism. Even in our poverty we can cling to our trinkets and be jealous of others for theirs. Without community or family prayer, we will miss the encouragement to be a prayerful people. Without prayer we end up saying, what’s the use of it all?

Luke paints a sad portrait of Herod the Tetrarch, for whom religion was a curiosity, a practical way to win the people’s loyalty. How ironic that his wish to see the Nazarene prophet was fulfilled only when, for political reasons, Pilate sent Jesus to him as a prisoner. On that occasion Herod was “extremely pleased to see Jesus” (Luke 23:8). If religion is used for politics or for mere curiosity, it has nothing to do with authentic faith. What we seek is a faith that is practiced with love.

Fruitful and unfruitful curiosity

King Herod Antipas ruled the province of Galilee on behalf of Rome. Luke portrays the trivial attitude of this Herod Antipas. When he heard what was being done by Jesus the king was puzzled and was anxious to see this famous prophetic figure. When they finally met it was in the course of the passion, when Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for a second opinion about his guilt. After questioning Jesus at length, in the end Herod treated him with contempt and mocked him. He was curious about Jesus, it was idle curiosity that did not lead to faith.

Other people wondered about Jesus and their curiosity led them to faith. Nathanael and Nicodemus come to mind. Even for people of faith, there is much to wonder about in the life of Jesus. The question asked by Herod Antipas, “Who is this?” is one for us all to ponder. We should always be searchers in regard to Jesus since we can never fully know him. As Saint Paul says, “now we see as in a mirror dimly.” We seek to know him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.


Saints Cosmas and Damian, martyrs

The twin brothers, Cosmas and Damian, were Christian physicians in Cilicia, Turkey. Arrested during the Diocletian persecution, they refused to recant and after savage tortures they were beheaded, along with their three younger brothers. In the Eastern Orthodox Church they are venerated as the Unmercenary Physicians (anargyroi, “without money”). In Rome pope Felix IV (526, 530) rededicated the Library of Peace in the Forum of Vespasian as the basilica of Ss Cosmas and Damian. The church still has sixth-century mosaics illustrating the martyr twins. Cosmas and Damian are invoked in the Roman Canon of the Mass and are held as the patrons of physicians and surgeons. Icons depict them vested as holding medicine boxes and a spoon with which to dispense medicine.

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