A Scripture reading for the procrastinators
A Reflection for Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Find today’s readings here.
Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the temple.
I have always enjoyed going to Mass, surprisingly even as a child. Now as an adult, I have come to believe more deeply in the importance of weekly Mass attendance as the cornerstone of my faith. Yet every single Sunday without fail I wake up and play the agonizing game of “Should I skip Mass this week and rather do something else instead?” In order for this game to really be challenging, my mind makes sure the other things I could do instead of going to church are noble things like calling a lonely family member, meditating or spending time helping my spouse. All things which in themselves are good and on a lazy Sunday morning require a lot less effort than going to church. This is my daily Sunday battle, deciding which of all the good things I can do on Sunday morning to ease my conscience for not attending Mass.
Today’s first reading centers around the slowing down of the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem around 520 AD. The Lord sends the prophet Haggai to remind the Israelites that whilst they are living well, God’s temple is still lying in ruins. The people keep procrastinating the building of the Lord’s house, and they have some good reasons for justifying the delay: The land was still desolate after 70 years of neglect; the work was hard; they didn’t have a lot of money or manpower; and they suffered crop failures and drought.
If we are honest with ourselves, this reading is self probing: What are we procrastinating (even for good reasons) in keeping to God’s priorities for us?
But God challenges them not only to build the temple but to seriously reflect on what is the real cost of their procrastination. The Israelites needed to build their homes, settle their families after exile, but were all of these tasks more important than following God’s will and building the temple? God asks the people: “Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and have harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm, and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes.” They might have done important things in the 18 years they stalled in building the temple, but how futile so much they have done was because they did not make God’s priorities their priorities. The Israelites may have had their share of food and drink, but they were never satisfied.
If we are honest with ourselves, this reading is self probing: What are we procrastinating (even for good reasons) in keeping to God’s priorities for us? For me, it is the prioritizing of Sunday Mass in a community I am part of. For you this may be around building a daily prayer routine, forgiving someone who has hurt you or signing up for that church group. This is a deeply personal answer.
But God is clear in today’s readings that we need to see where in our lives we are procrastinating God’s will and take the necessary action to make God’s priorities our priorities. If we don’t do this we might continue to do many good things, but nothing will satisfy us and bring us that peace we seek. For me, I ask God to let these words fill my mind when I inevitably play that Sunday morning game.