27 September 2007: Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul
Haggai 1, 1-8 and Luke 9, 7-9: Consider how you have fared
Ancient history had it that Cyrus, King of Persia gave out an order for the exiled Jews in Babylon to return and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. In his decree in 538 BC, he even asked citizens of the Persian Empire to support the Jews in their reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1, 1-4). However, there was no significant progress by the year 520. The building of the temple was resumed in the reign of Darius who was the king of the Persian Empire from 521-485 BC. The old temple was the Temple of Solomon, plundered and burned in 587 BC (2 Kings 25, 8-7). Assisted by Zechariah, the prophet Haggai was the principal mover of this major project.
In the reconstruction of the temple, the Lord in the first reading kept repeating the following: Consider your ways! Consider how you have managed. Consider how you have progressed. In the reconstruction of the temple, there was also a need for a personal and spiritual reconstruction. As the foundation stone of the temple was put into place, the people were asked to look at the foundation stone of their faith. To make the temple become a unifying project of all people, the prophet Haggai exhorted the joint leaders of the Judean community — Zerubbabel, the governor and Joshua the high priest — to assume leadership in the construction of the temple and urged the priests to purify the cultic worship. These two projects became unifying points for factions in the community to come together. In other words, the physical reconstruction also became a spiritual renewal. The building of a temple was also a building of a community of faith.
The Gospel from Luke is about Herod who heard about Jesus. He said, “John, I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” In a way, Herod is now being haunted by his guilt that he sought to see Jesus (Luke 9, 9). He was perplexed. He was confused. This guilt and puzzlement directed Herod to seek for the truth and perhaps, led him to some self-evaluation. Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
As we come to worship or pray in a building such as this physical church of the community of UP, we come to consider our ways. To see how we have managed our lives. To assess how we have progressed in our faith. We can do two things from our two points.
First, we take from the Gospel. When we are confused and perplexed about the teachings of the Church, we must seek clarity, as Herod tried to look for Jesus to clarify all the rumors. The things we do in our faith, from rituals to doctrines, are reasonable: there is always an explanation for it. Thus, we can google it. We can consult experts in Theology (not just priests, but also lay people who study theology). If the issue is still a gray area, we can seek the opinion of people, and in the end, we follow our conscience.
Second, we take from the first reading. We can use three questions which St. Ignatius directs those who take the Spiritual Exercises: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ? By these questions, we would be able to assess our ways.
*UP ICTUS sharing group during their retreat in Tagaytay last April 2007.