First Reading: Haggai 1:1-8
On the first day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius, The word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak: Thus says the LORD of hosts: This people says: “The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” (Then this word of the LORD came through Haggai, the prophet:) Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways! You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; And whoever earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways! Go up into the hill country; bring timber, and build the house That I may take pleasure in it and receive my glory, says the LORD.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B
The Lord takes delight in his people. Sing to the LORD a new song of praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in their maker, let the children of Zion rejoice in their king. Let them praise his name in the festive dance, let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp. For the LORD loves his people, and he adorns the lowly with victory. Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy upon their couches; Let the high praises of God be in their throats. This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
Gospel: Luke 9:7-9
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.
Pour yourselves a stiff drink, ladies. (If you’re reading this in the morning, make it a strong cup of coffee.) Today’s readings pack a serious punch.
In case you hadn’t noticed during your lifetime on this planet, God’s ways are not our ways. God does not conform to the world’s standards.
We know this as Christians. Radical love, abundant forgiveness, unmerited grace—none of it makes logical sense.
But if today’s news headlines aren’t enough prove the mismatch between our ways and God’s, take the first reading. A quick and tidy checklist of how humans continue to mess up.
You have sown much, but have brought in little;
you have eaten, but have not been satisfied;
You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated;
have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed;
And whoever earned wages
earned them for a bag with holes in it.
Gulp. Yup, that’s me. Frantic, frenzied, gluttonous, and envious. (At least I know I’m in good company of thousands of years of humanity.)
The truth that God’s ways are not our ways is not meant to depress us—exactly the opposite. Our humanity and God’s divinity are the source of deep and lasting hope.
Because it’s not up to us. It’s up to Him.
We are loved. We are forgiven. We are created, cared for, and called by name. When we remember this truth and turn away from the world’s temptations, we are return to the Good News that sets the solid foundation for our lives.
The Gospel is always unfolding in the middle of confusion. Today’s readings reminds us that even the most powerful leaders are perplexed by God’s ways. Herod did everything he could to stop the coming of Christ—the slaughter of the innocents, the beheading of John the Baptist—but brute force and political sway couldn’t hold a candle to the power of God.
What a dazzling reminder for us, that the powers of this world have never been a safe place to put our trust.
Today, set down your phone and turn off the news. When the world’s worries gnaw at your heart and your hope, pause and breathe and pray. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways. Remember that it’s not up to us. It’s up to Him.
Laura Kelly Fanucci is a mother, writer, and theological researcher. She and her husband are raising three little boys in the suburban wilds of Minnesota. You can find out more about her here.