The Responsorial Psalm gives us a reason for worshipping together with celebration: “The Lord takes delight
in his people” (Psalm 149).
In Haggai 1: 1-8 the Persian king Darius II has given permission to resume building the temple after opposition had blocked it. But the people have lost their enthusiasm. So God inspired the prophet Haggai to reanimate them. “This people says, ‘Not now has the time come to rebuild the house of the Lord’… Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?”
Haggai has no authority except truth and God’s inspiration. But as a leader he urges into action both civil and religious authorities: the governor and the high priest. He calls the people to face the fact that their selfishness has not made them happy: “You have eaten but not been satisfied… clothed yourselves but not been warmed… earned wages for a bag with holes in it!” He summons them to rebuild God’s house so that God “may take pleasure in it.” “The Lord takes delight in his people” — he likes to gather them to himself in celebration. He needs a place for this. Giving him one will change things.
Will building a temple produce better crops? Not directly, but in the long run selfishness will destroy any country’s prosperity, and long before that take the happiness out of prosperity. This is why the will to create time and space for worship is a step toward a healthy society. If we interact properly with God, we will interact better with each other.
There is more to interacting properly with God than just filling time and space. Our celebrations have to be celebrations: filled with enthusiasm and joy. No authority or rules can produce this. It takes leaders in the pews who by their own enthusiasm animate others. When we take delight in celebrating our faith with each other, we will experience that “the Lord takes delight in his people.” And we will take delight in him.
Luke 9: 7-8 shows us the impact of leaders on authorities. Herod imprisoned John the Baptizer because John was urging change. And when the same Herod heard about Jesus, who like John had no recognized authority in Israel, he wanted to see him. When he did, Herod failed the test by using his authority — as did the chief priests and influential scribes — to combat rather than promote the changes Jesus called for. But he could not ignore him. And in the end, it is those who are acting with God who prevail. When, as Christ’s risen body, we try to establish his reign on earth, “the Lord takes delight in his people.”
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Work with God to bring about change.