Thursday, September 27, 2007

Twenty-fifth Thursday in Ordinary Time, Year I. Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul

Readings: Hg. 1,1-8; Ps. 149,1-6a.9b; Lk 9,7-9

Today’s readings speak to us of desire, human desire, of our longing for the transcendent. The prophet Haggai speaks first to King Darius, the ruler of Persia who had conquered Israel, and to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, a Jew who is King Darius’ agent in the holy land. The desire of which Haggai speaks is the desire of the people of Israel for the Lord’s presence among them, which the Jerusalem Temple housed. It is a note of history that Darius allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple.

Haggai also speaks to Israel about desire. He urges them to consider their ways. Hence, we are urged to consider the ways we seek to live our lives, how we set out to accomplish all of our undertakings and endeavors. By calling people to such a consideration, the prophet seeks to bring his hearers to the realization that none of our undertakings, no matter how worthy or meritorious, satisfies our longing, our desire, for something more.

It is easy, especially in our time and in our society, to fall into the trap of believing that things or accomplishments will satisfy our deepest desires, but, as anybody with any experience of life knows, especially people who have achieved some success, no matter what we achieve or acquire, we still long for something more. To quote the great bishop of Hippo, "our hearts remain restless".

The good news is, as the Psalmist tells us, “The Lord takes delight in his people”. In other words, our desire is met by an even greater, infinite, desire - God’s desire for us. Unlike our human longing, God’s longing is certain, unambiguous, unbounded, as well as unrelenting.

St. Vincent de Paul
Today’s Gospel shows us that even someone as disordered as Herod, whose fleshly appetites were apparently insatiable, shares our human longing. This is why, whether Herod understood it or not (it is quite clear, from what we know about him, that he did not), “he kept trying to see Jesus” (Lk 9,9). In St. Vincent de Paul, whose memorial we observe today, we see the same longing as we see in Herod, but a very different method and outcome in satisfying this desire. In St. Vincent we see someone who came to the realization that Jesus is not just a curiosity, but the One who satisfies our deepest longing. St. Vincent, like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, did not merely try to see Jesus; he saw the face of the Lord in the poor he served.

Jesus satisfies our longing, our desire, quenches our thirst and feeds our hunger by giving Himself to us in the communion we are gathered here to share. He is present among us in several ways, in our very gathering together in His name, in our reading of scripture and, above all, in the bread that has become His Body for us. It is through the Eucharist that He literally comes to be present in us. Through His presence in each of us, we are joined together as His mystical Body so that we can make Him present to the world.

It is because we have found our hearts’ true desire that all of our endeavors become more satisfying, which they are not in and of themselves. Our undertakings become satisfying because we, God’s priestly people, consecrate ourselves and all we do to Him.

(A homily preached at Holy Family Parish this morning)

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