September 22, 2011 - Thursday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Abraham Maslow is famous for his theory of the Hierarchy of Needs. The basic idea is that before a person can worry about things like self-esteem or having a nice job, they must have things like breathing and eating taken care of. This theory has some truth to it, but we also know that we rational human beings are not ruled by our needs. We may decide to put off eating in order to get an important project done at work, and there are many reasons why we might hold our breath. People can even choose to die for a righteous cause.

Our readings today show us how religion fits into our hierarchy of needs. The Jews in our first reading are not hostile to religion; indeed, they would be described as very religious, but when they returned from exile, they decided to take care of their basic needs first. They put off building the temple until they had built their homes and planted crops and saved up a little money. They kept putting off building the temple, until 20 years had passed since they returned from exile. Still the people were saying, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.”

Would the time ever come? Would there ever be a time when everything was perfect: lots of money and peace and security? No. We cannot always wait until conditions are optimal before we begin building. Good enough has to be good enough. When our ancestors built this church, they had not satisfied every worldly desire first. Each of us has a temple to build in our lives. We build it by going to Mass and praying and works of mercy and fasting and giving alms. If we put off any of this until we are comfortable in the world, we will never get this temple built.

If we delay serving the poor until we have extra time, we will never serve the poor. If we delay giving money to the Church until we have extra money, we will never support the Church. If we delay praying until we are done with whatever else we wanted to do, we will never pray. Air, food, and water are good things, but religion has to be our first priority. When praying is as important as breathing, when fasting is as important as eating, then we will have conquered this world.