Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection – September 23, 2021
Homily for the 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 9-23-21, Year B
Readings: Hg 1:1-8, Psalm 149, Gospel Lk 9:7-9
Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) Priest
Theme: Put God First
For those who have a keen sense of the Holy Spirit working in their lives, they know why Haggai is moved to point out the wrongs of the Jewish people in regard to God’s temple. The people, who have returned from exile in Babylon, specifically to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, have spent their time and money on satisfying themselves first, before God. Haggai is prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something about this, and he cannot resist it.
It is like Richard Dreyfuss in the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” In that movie, Richard’s character encounters an alien and is infused with a desire to search them out. The desire to seek out the aliens is so strong that he eventually drops everything to try and discover the origins of the burning desire within him. It takes most of the movie for him to realize that what he desires is to travel to a place called “Devil’s Tower” in Wyoming where he encounters the aliens again and satisfies the urges within him.
In a way, Haggai, too, is prompted by God to speak up, at great risk, to the Jewish leaders about the lackadaisical response of the people to build the house of God. Unlike Richard Dreyfuss’s character, Haggai knows why and to whom he must respond to. To rebuild the temple of God was the very reason Cyrus allowed the exiled Israelites to return to Jerusalem in the first place, because God so willed it through him.
The urgency in Haggai’s voice is moving. Something has to be done. People have to listen and respond, or bad things will happen. In other words, get moving, “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.” God is waiting!
In the Gospel today, we can see a similar prompting and desire in Herod the Tetrarch, except he is more like Richard Dreyfuss’s character, he does not know why he is seeking to see Jesus. Herod is so wrapped up in his own earthy life that he is not spending any time or money to build the temple of the Lord, rather, he is paneling his own house.
We know from scripture that Herod never figures out the answer to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to see Jesus. Instead, he is only focused on his own life, like the Israelites in Haggai’s time, that he missed understanding that Jesus (God) is his saving grace and resurrection into eternal life. In other words, Herod’s sole existence here on Earth is due to God made manifest in Jesus His son.
We can sometimes be similar to both the Israelite people in Haggai’s time and Herod where our own lives are so filled up with earthly wants and desires that we miss God’s prompting to us. That overlooked prompting of the Holy Spirit can lead us to the path of Herod, a place we do not want to be.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us in various ways. Many times, it is a prompting to do or say something in particular. It is an inner movement of our conscience that we cannot ignore and must respond to. Padre Pio knew this firsthand and lived a life dedicated to God first and foremost by serving his people here on Earth through miracles and healing.
So, open your heart so that you can hear the Holy Spirit within you. Listen and act on those promptings to do good, to love, to forgive and most of all to recognize Jesus first as your Savior. Satisfy God first by building His temple, then, through His grace, enjoy the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a life lived well on earth and an everlasting life in heaven!