September 20, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegõn, priest and martyr and Saint Paul Chõng Hasang, martyr and their companions, martyrs

Today's Readings

“I rejoiced when I heard them say, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” This psalm is one of the ascension psalms which were sung by pilgrims as they walked across Israel to Jerusalem to visit the temple for one of the feasts. The Jews would only have been able to come to the temple a few times each year, so it was a very important occasion. Throughout this psalm we hear the joy of returning to the temple after months away.

In the first reading, we learn about how the temple was rebuilt. There was resistance from all sides, but eventually the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem after living in exile were able to rebuild the temple and offer sacrifice once again. This after not a few months but seventy years. Imagine the rejoicing in Jerusalem on that day!

In the Gospel we have the same theme. Mary is coming to visit her son Jesus. I wonder how long it had been since she had seen him. Long enough for someone to announce that she was there. I am sure that she, like any good mother, would have waited patiently until Jesus was done working. Just to see him again and hear his teaching must have caused her to rejoice, just to be near him, she who had double reason for joy since he is both her son and her God.

Did you rejoice when you walked in here today? I know that it has not been a few months since you came to church. Most of you were here yesterday. This is our difficulty: familiarity. We do not have to wait months between visiting the house of God like the ancient Jews. We do not have to wait 70 years like those returning from exile. We are able to spend time with God daily.

We should be careful that this familiarity with God does not lead us to dismiss him, to talk in church while waiting for Mass to begin, to read the bulletin or balance a checkbook. It is not easy, but we ought to experience the joy and wonder of being in God’s presence each day as if it were our first time. As the old saying tells us familiarity can breed contempt, but it can also foster love. If we use the gifts of silence and genuflecting and prayer whenever we enter the church, we can make a habit of wonder and awe in his presence.