Building the House of God- Reflection for Mass of September 22, 2009

22 Sep

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Ezra 4:4-5, 6:1, 6-8, 12, 14-20; Psalm 122:1-5; Luke 8:19-21

This past August, I visited the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada, with my family. There, stories of the greatest people in the sport’s history are told, and their memorabilia is enshrined. But the exploits of some less heralded members of the Hall- broadcasters, coaches, executives- are recalled in a section dedicated to the game’s “builders.”

The Israelite people in today’s reading from Ezra were also builders, although their building concerned something more significant than contributions to a sport. The “people of Judah” (1) had just been allowed to return from exile in Babylon by King Cyrus of Persia. The book of Ezra begins where the second book of Chronicles that immediately precedes it ends, with Cyrus’ decree that allowed the people of Judah to rebuild the city walls and then the Temple of Jerusalem. (2)

However, even with the benevolence of King Cyrus, the reconstruction of the Temple was delayed. (3) The Samaritans, already established to the north of Jerusalem and unwilling to allow Judah’s encroachment on their territory and clash with their religious practice, interfered with the fulfillment of King Cyrus’ plans, bribing officials who stopped the building project until the reign of the next Persian king, Darius I. (4) Moreover, the book of Ezra tells us that Samaritan meddling caused the inhabitants of Judah to become “afraid to build.” (5) About eighteen years passed between the laying of the initial foundation of the “house of God” in Jerusalem and the resumption of construction under the decree re-iterated by King Darius. (6)

The stoppage in work on the Temple, though, raises a deeper question for us: When have we been “afraid to build” God’s house, not so much an exterior, physical structure or a literal building, but an interior dwelling place for God in our souls, nurtured through prayer and actions of kindness, justice, and mercy?

Today’s Gospel reading also reminds us not to be afraid to be active builders of God’s house that is within each of us and is inclusive of the entire human community. In Jesus’ cultural milieu especially, that human community was centered on the family. The fourth of the Ten Commandments was taken to heart; one who honoured father and mother would be blessed by God with a long life in the promised homeland. (7)

Jesus extends this meaning of family in His teaching. According to Luke, He says to his disciples: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (8) The building of human family and community must begin as an interior disposition to hearing the Word of God. Thus, our hearts become the house of the Word of God, the foundation upon which we are built as temples of the Holy Spirit (9) who act upon the inspiration of that indwelling Word.

The post-exilic Israelites became examples of active building in the book of Ezra. After the Temple was finished, they dedicated it to God and then celebrated the Passover according to Mosaic law. (10) As we build communion with one another and intimacy with God through prayer, then, let us celebrate our Passover into new life, our Eucharist, in thanksgiving and in memory of Christ our Lord. (11) Amen.

WRS

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One Response to “Building the House of God- Reflection for Mass of September 22, 2009”

  1. canadiancatholicblog September 21, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    Notes:

    (1) Ezra 4:4
    (2) cf. Ezra 1:1-4, 2 Chronicles 36:22-23
    (3) cf. Ezra 4:5
    (4) cf. Ibid.
    (5) Ibid.
    (6) Ezra 6:3, 17 cf. Ezra 6:1-12
    (7) cf. Exodus 20:12
    (8) Luke 8:21
    (9) cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19
    (10) Ezra 6:15-22
    (11) All four Eucharistic prayers contain the command of Jesus at the Last Supper: “Do this in memory of Me,” from Luke 22:19. cf. also “Living with Christ.” Large-Print Edition, Vol. 15 No. 9. Montreal: Novalis, September 2009. 19, 21, 23, 26.

    WRS

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