Call to Community

24 September 2009 Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Haggai 1, 1-8; Psalm 149; Luke 9, 7-9


We shall focus on the first reading today from the prophet Haggai. The Temple needs reconstruction. The first batch from Babylon has laid the foundations of the Temple in 536 BCE; however there has been no progress since. Though we do not know what kept the community from rebuilding it, the reading tells us of an urgency to prioritize the Lord’s house than their daily concerns. The members of the community work for food, drink, clothing and wages but they remain unsatisfied. They are not fulfilled because their relationship with God has much to be desired. Haggai believed that to reconstruct the Temple, they have to restore their relationship with God first. Thus, the task to rebuild lies with the community. We are therefore talking about two “levels” of restoration: the physical setting up of the place of worship and the renewal of a relationship. These levels are not mutually exclusive. The Temple of the Lord is an enhancement of what God is already doing to them. As the building is constructed, God is forming a community who was once scattered and exiled, bringing them again under one roof.

The Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC) in the IX Plenary Assembly in Manila (10-16 August 2009) calls all of us to reflect on the significance of building a community by living the Eucharist in Asia. FABC hopes that the new fervor in worshipping the Lord at mass, the source and summit of worship, will bring us to encounter the Lord and lead us to communion. Thus, we will be able to form community in our active and prayerful participation in hearing the Word and sharing in the breaking of the Bread. Asia is a continent with diverse cultures, but we can bring a sense of belonging when we see that we have common cultural elements. We keep in mind that Asia cherishes family, common meals and community celebrations that foster and promote unity. Thus, if we are able to promote these values through our daily life, we will be able to generate in everyone “the courage to build authentic communities that reconcile, forgive, minister to the poor and the marginalized.”

I believe if we are to take heart what the readings today tell us, we will be able to build God’s temple as we form our community just as Haggai the prophet envisions the Word of Yahweh. It is profitable to think that God’s Temple in the Christian viewpoint mean every single human person (the Temple of the Holy Spirit), every community (The Mystical Body of Christ) manifested in Basic Ecclesial Communities. The church building houses the worshipping community. This is thus a challenge as well as a warning to church leaders such as parish priests: though building a church is important, it is more significant to build the community which the building houses. It is not true that only when we have buildings that communities are built. What is true is the other way around. In fact if we form communities and the people are happy encountering God and palpably feeling loved and accepted in the community, they will eventually construct the building.

We end with a quote from the FABC IX Plenary Assembly message: “We cannot celebrate the Eucharist and at the same time maintain, practice or tolerate discrimination based on religion or race, culture or language, caste or class. If we are grafted into the Eucharistic Lord, we will reach out and become bridge-builders in a world that is becoming increasingly divisive.”

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