"My Spirit Continues in Your Midst; Do Not Fear!"
It is difficult for us to imagine what the destruction of the Jerusalem temple at the time of the Exile meant for the Jewish people. We might be tempted to equate it with the destruction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome-the destruction of a large, beautiful and highly symbolic structure. Yet, despite its size, beauty and symbolism, St. Peter's is still one of countless churches throughout the world. There was only one temple. And that temple was the place of the encounter with the Living God. No other place on earth was like it. Where was God, if this place had been destroyed?
The words of the prophet Haggai, then, must have offered quite a healing balm: "My spirit continues in your midst; do not fear!" The fidelity of God would see them through even this unimaginable crisis. Though the temple had been destroyed, the spirit of God remained in their midst; the temple would be rebuilt.
As Christians we name that spirit the "Holy Spirit" and the promise of that Spirit's presence offers us a particular consolation: "Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rom 5, 5). The words of Haggai now point to a new and deeper truth: The Holy Spirit continues not only in our midst but within our very hearts! And that provides grounds for great hope.
"Where is God?" we cry out in moments of pain. The feeling of abandonment by God finds us all from time to time. Haggai's encouragement points us to this new and even deeper truth: even in places of pain, the Holy Spirit of God, the Consoler, continues to dwell with us. Today's invitation is to let that truth meet our pain and so allow this promise to console us with new hope.
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