A Purified Temple

The woman at the well – Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;* but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her, Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

This is the weekend.  This was the sunday in Lent that everything changed.  I’ll never forget it. It was the third sunday of lent.  On Friday, we had learned that Masses would be canceled for two weeks.  Of course we know, that two weeks turned into two and half months.  And yet, here we are, a whole year later.  It’s the third sunday of lent, and we are still not open 100%.  I think all of us here, have come to learn how important Church is. 

That word Church is has several meaning doesn’t it?  When I say Church, I could be talking about a building.  This place.  When I say a church it could be a description of who we are; all of us gathered together are the Church – As Christ’s mystical body.  Or, when I say Church i could be talking about the place that God dwells.  The Church is the place where God is present, and where we encounter him. 

This third definition is important for us in our readings this weekend. For ancient Judaism, the temple was the place where heaven and earth met. It was the house of God.  The purpose of the temple was supposed to be the place where people came to pray and encounter God. And this is why Jesus is angry, because the temple had ceased being a place of encounter and instead a marketplace. 

The question to ask ourselves this weekend is this: where is the temple today? Where is the place where people come to pray and encounter God? There are three options to this, the place of the temple today could be our hearts, it could be the community, or it could be this building?  And certainly, we know after this last year, that the temple, the place of prayer and encounter with God, cannot be limited to just this building, since for a couple of months, we weren’t even allowed to gather here.  But at the same time, the place of the temple cannot exclude the Church since this is where we experience God’s love through the sacraments. Of course, our hearts are the place where we encounter God through prayer.  I hope in asking the question the place of the temple has become obvious.  The temple is located in our hearts, its located in our community as we gather together, and its the place of the Church building itself. The place of the temple is always all three.

And this is evident in scripture: What is the modern-day temple?  Saint Paul answer this question for us, I urge you, brothers and sisters, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).  Or again, he asks, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit…? (1 Cor 6:19). We also know from Jesus that where two or three are gathered there he is in the midst of us.  Finally, we know from scripture that Church is place of the sacramental presence of Christ: take this all of you eat of it.

So the temple is our heart, our community and our church.  In our Gospel we have an angry Jesus.  He is upset that the temple is no longer a place of prayer and encountering God.  Here is a good question to ask ourselves this week…. “What would Jesus do, if he came into my temple of my heart right now?”  The challenge then is to allow our consciences to be stirred up.  The challenge is to let Jesus come into our hearts with a whip made of cords, to turn over the areas of our lives that need conversion. The challenge then is to allow ourselves to ask, is Christ present in my community.  Do my friends, family and I invite God into our gatherings.  Do we pray together to God and to we pray for one another? Finally, as a result of a Covid, maybe the purification of the temple is important for us to remember that when it is safe enough to be 100% capacity, that we remember collectively how important it is to come and gather together here in this place to worship and encounter God.  So each of us is a temple of God.  Here is the great wisdom of our church.  We are asked to meditate and pray on this Gospel during the season of Lent.  A season that we are intentionally trying to turn back to God, and purify our hearts – to purify our temples.  With a purified temple we are can more fully engage God and encounter him in this sacred space.   

In Christ’s love and friendship,

Fr. Stephen

Image Credit: https://i.redd.it/t0b9hgoin9541.jpg “Find Shepherd”

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