27 October 2011

A house becomes a temple

Hey, look!  A homily!  Remember those?

Ss. Simon and Jude
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Ss. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

We are no longer strangers and sojourners. We are fellow citizens with the holy ones. Members of the household of God. A family built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. And Christ Jesus himself is the capstone. If this is all we were, if this were the sum total of what it means to be a follower of Christ, we could call it a blessing and spend our days giving thanks to God for adopting us as His children, for taking us in hand and giving us a holy place in His creation. But if who and what we are in Christ were to stop here. . .if we were to say, “It is enough that we are a family—thank you, Lord; it is enough that we are a happy community—praise Jesus”. . .if we were settle for this great blessing, we would be settling for something much less than all that the Father has to give us. Yes, we are citizens with the holy ones. Yes, we are brothers and sisters in the family of the Lord. Yes, we are a community of praise and thanksgiving. BUT we are also growing as a temple sacred in the Lord; we are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. 

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes who and what the church in Ephesus is AND he tells them who and what they can become. They are a household of the Lord built on the teachings of the apostles and the prophets; however, they are also becoming a temple, a dwelling-place for the Spirit of God. Our household is becoming a temple; our family is becoming a church. How does this happen? How do we move from being a household to being a temple, from being a family to being a church? Paul uses two key verbs: to grow and to build. To grow a plant, you first sow its seed; then, you nurture it; prune it; and harvest its fruit. If you plant wheat seed, you get wheat. If you plant rice, you get rice. A seed can only grow into what it was made to be. Wheat seed cannot become rice. If the Lord's household generously plants itself as the seed of His Word, we grow and grow and we become that which we were made to be: His Word made flesh. To build, we start with a well dug foundation—solid, concrete; then, we frame our structure—sturdy, durable; then, we protect it with a waterproof roof and make the inside welcoming, warm. If our building is to become a dwelling-place for the Lord, our foundation must be the apostles' teaching; our frame must be the Church's Tradition; and our roof will be the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, our protection against the hostile elements of the world. If we invite the Lord in; if we bring Him in with us to dwell among us and give Him the place of honor as Father and Lord, then our house will become a temple.

It is an enormous blessing to be a loving community of believers; to be an international family vowed to justice and peace. How much more of a blessing is it to be a living, breathing temple for the Lord? How much more is it to be one in whom the Spirit of God dwells? And to be one among many and more who can lay claim to having been built up from an apostolic foundation and grown from the seed of His Word?

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1 comment:

  1. Apropos of nothing...I just watched a new film, "The Rite", about a conflicted seminarian sent to Rome to study in the new exorcism program at the Vatican. It has a lot of the predictable lazy flaws and stupid gaffes of movies about a. Catholicism and b. exorcism, but, astonishingly, one of the strong characters is an intelligent, perceptive, confident and kind Dominican, played by Ciarin Hinds. They even got the habit right, although they jesuitically named him "Xavier". And for all its missteps, it does not take a basically mocking view of the issue.

    The usual TV and film image of priests and clergy is pathetically cartoonish but this flick did very little of that.