Zeal for Building the Lord’s House, Thursday of the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (I), September 26, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Thursday of the 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of SS. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs
September 26, 2013
Hg 1:1-8, Ps 149, Lk 9:7-9

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click here: 


The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • Today the Church continues to give us reflections on the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem after the exile, which is meant to help us ponder Jesus’ resurrection (the True Temple), the temple that is the Church, and the temple that is meant to be each of us together with Jesus.
  • In the first reading, we see how the Lord sent the Prophet Haggai to wake up the people of God whom the Lord had freed from exile. It was during the time of King Darius, the son of Cyrus, who had allowed the Jews to return and helped them to start rebuilding the Temple. The Jews built something quick and temporary on the Temple Mount, but then started to prioritize their own affairs. They were saying, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the House of the Lord.” They were delaying the things of God for their own affairs, and building their own luxurious paneled houses instead of the Temple. Haggai, speaking for the Lord said, “Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses, while this house [of God] lies in ruins?” He then went on to say that they would never find fulfillment in sowing, eating, drinking, clothing, or money making. The forceful appeal of the Lord was “Consider your ways!” He told them to go get timber and begin to build the house of the Lord “that I may take pleasure in it and receive my glory.” That might seem like an egocentric statement, but it’s not. The Lord takes pleasure in loving us and his glory is, as St. Ireneus would say at the end of the second century, “man fully alive” through the vision of God. God wanted a house so that we would fittingly worship him because it is through that worship that he builds us into a holy temple.
  • It starts, however, with that zeal. Before the first temple was built, we see an opposite attitude to that of the post-exilic Jews in King David who was eaten alive by the fact that he was living in a palace while the ark of the Covenant, the sign of God’s presence, was in a tent. He wanted to build a fitting temple, but God, through the prophet Nathan, replied that He instead would build a temple for David. That temple was obviously David’s own descendent according to the flesh and God’s own Son, Jesus. We’re all called, however, to have the same zeal to build a house of the Lord because that’s the way the Lord in fact makes us his temple.
  • In the Gospel, Herod was curious to meet Jesus, but Jesus will never be able to build a temple for him to dwell within us by curiosity. There needs to be a true relationship, a union, with the Lord, a hunger for mutual indwelling, something that Herod never had. Pope Francis this morning in his homily in the Vatican said that we have to know Jesus, to enter into a dialogue with Him, at three different levels, the language of the mind, of the heart, and of action. Through the language of the mind, we get to know Jesus through books like the Bible and the Catechism, where we get to know Jesus more deeply. But that’s not enough. There is also the language of the heart, in which we speak to Jesus in loving prayer and allow him to speak to us in the core of who we are. And then there’s the language of action in which the love of Jesus within us overflows into our love of others. Pope Francis asked whether we have that zeal, whether, for example, in the 20 years since the Catechism was published we’ve read it, whether we put prayer above watching television, whether we put charity above caring for ourselves. These are all instances for us to ask whether we’re more concerned with building a house for the Lord — not just a building where he dwells, like this parish Church of St. Bernadette, but also his house within us — or building a house for ourselves.
  • SS. Cosmas and Damian were saints who focused on getting to know the Lord in each of these three ways. They were doctors who never charged for their services, something that made so many of their non-Christian patients seek to know the source of their generosity and come to discover Christ, whose generosity inspired them both. They knew Christ, through study and prayer, and were able to bring many to him. Their most definitive house for the Lord was built through their martyrdom in persecution. They give a powerful witnessed of those who lived together with the Lord in this life so that they might enter into the eternal temple not built by human hands in heaven. Similarly, like Cosmas and Damian, like King David, like Jesus himself, zeal for the Lord’s house should consume us too!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
HG 1:1-8

On the first day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius,
The word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai
to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,
and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak:Thus says the LORD of hosts:
This people says:
“The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”
(Then this word of the LORD came through Haggai, the prophet:)
Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses,
while this house lies in ruins?

Now thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
You have sown much, but have brought in little;
you have eaten, but have not been satisfied;
You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated;
have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed;
And whoever earned wages
earned them for a bag with holes in it.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
Go up into the hill country;
bring timber, and build the house
That I may take pleasure in it
and receive my glory, says the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

LK 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.