Homily for Sept. 23, Friday of the XXV week in Ordinary Time, year I, memorial of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
When the people of Israel returned from exile in Babylon, they had to rebuild from practically nothing. They were spiritually at a low point. According to the prophets, the cause of their defeat and exile was their infidelity to their covenant with God, thanks in part to false prophets and to kings who trusted their own judgment more than they trusted God. As a consequence, the city and temple of Jerusalem and other areas of Judea were destroyed. When they were granted the opportunity to rebuild, it was a slow and difficult process. As we heard in the readings yesterday, they didn’t start off on the right foot, because they didn’t give much priority to rebuilding the house of God.
However, once they get their priorities straight, they receive a very encouraging message from the Lord through the prophet Haggai: God will be with the people, and will help them to rebuild. The temple they build will reach even greater glory than before, and the people will have a time of peace. The psalm reflects the desire and hope of the people for God’s help.
We know what it’s like to have to rebuild. The Church and our country are both going through difficult times, caused in part by failures in leadership, but also due to other factors, some beyond our direct control. We are trying to rebuild, but the path is long and hard, and involves difficult decisions. The best thing each one of us can do is strengthen our own fidelity to God, pray that others will do the same, and trust that God will grant us a renaissance in the Church at the appropriate time.
Of course, we’d rather not have to go through all this. We’d like the Church on earth always to be strong, pure and beautiful. But then we have to re-read today’s Gospel. We are the Body of Christ, and Christ had to pass through rejection, suffering and death because of our sins before He could rise again. In Baptism, we are joined to His sufferings, but also to His resurrection. That plays out in different ways, both on a personal level – just think of the suffering of St. Padre Pio, whom we celebrate today – and on the level of the local and universal Church. May God grant us peace of heart, wisdom in our decisions, and courage in action, that with His grace we may continue to bring greater fidelity to God, new vigor, and greater joy to our Church and to our country.