Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Haggai 1:1-8; Luke 9:7-9)
Twenty years ago the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was building its new cathedral with a price tag of $300 million. A group of lay Catholics who worked with the very poor were outraged by the amount and actively protested the construction. With prophetic boldness they claimed the new cathedral was a needless extravagance. Confident that the Church was caring sufficiently for the poor in the area, the archbishop proceeded with the building project.
We hear of a similar tug-a-war between spending on social needs and constructing a monument to God in the reading from the prophet Haggai today. In this case, the prophet also takes the side of construction. He speaks out what he hears God telling him: concentrating on satisfying human desires has rendered scant benefit to the people. He emphasizes that now is the time to focus on life’s chief priority – a faithful relationship with God which the Temple promotes. He might add that other needs such as assistance to the poor will fall in order and be readily met.
Interesting, economists have verified the strategy of spending money on social projects like a Temple in times of recession. It provides jobs for people which stimulate consumer spending and the creation of wealth. Building a temple or a church will also remind us to keep our priorities straight. First we give God His due and then take care of other needs. God will see that no one is left wanting.