09 November 2012

Have you rented your temple?

Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

With an angel, Ezekiel watches a temple whose fountains water the desert land. Paul writes that we are temples of God's spirit built on the foundation of Christ. And Jesus visits the temple to flay the moneychangers who defile his Father's house. We have a spiritual temple; a living temple; and a temple made of stone. If what Paul writes is true—“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”—and his warning to us is prescient—you “must be careful how [you build]. . .” b/c there is no foundation other than Christ—then, we must all look long and hard in our spiritual mirror, and examine ever so carefully the conscience reflected there. If Ezekiel and his host-angel are watching the heavenly temple water the deserts of sin and death, bringing them to life; and if Paul is right about each one of us being a temple of God built on the foundation of Christ; then, we can be sure that Jesus is headed toward each one of us with a whip of cords to drive out whatever defiles each one of his Father's living temples. As a temple of God's Spirit, have you rented out the Lord's holy place? If so, who or what needs to be driven out? 

Jesus fashions a whip of cords. He marches into the temple courtyard and watches the merchants selling sacrificial animals, the bankers exchanging secular money for the temple tax. In a burst of righteous anger, he begins whipping the lot of them, yelling, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace.” His disciples watch him and recall a line from Psalm 69: “Zeal for your house has consumed me.” Christ is zealous in defending the dignity of his Father's stone temple. How much more zealous will he be then in defending the dignity of his Father's living temples—each one of us? If he's willing to breach the peace of his nation's temple with violence, how much more eager will he be then to whip the complacency out of our flesh and bone temples, all living temples for which he died on the Cross? Paul says it plainly, “If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” As a living temple of God's Spirit, have you turned your heart and mind into a marketplace? Have you rented out the Lord's holy place? 

To answer this, we need to think long and hard about who the moneychangers are in our lives. Who are the merchants that buy and sell, exchange and borrow in the courtyards of our soul? There are, of course, the real world merchants who sell us ugliness so that we buy beauty; sell us fat so that we buy thin; sell us old so that we buy young. There are the political merchants who sell us illusions of fairness and work-free utopias; the religious merchants who sell us cheap grace*; the cultural merchants who sell us fleeting glamor and celebrity; and then there's the most seductive merchant of all: the spiritual merchant, who hopes to sell us a new foundation for our temples. This new foundation will be dug into the ground of this life, not the one that comes after; it will support all your choices, all your preferences; it's completely pliable, totally malleable; it will never resist your designs, never push back against whatever you think is right to build; it takes whatever spiritual shape you need it to take. Have you rented the Lord's holy place, His living temple, your body and soul, to this merchant, to any of these merchants? Now would be a good time to get your temple in order; now would be a very good time to reflect long and hard on Christ's zealous defense of his Father's living temples. 

*Grace is freely given, not cheaply bought.

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  1. Something about the final paragraph left me wanting more; it was weaker than I am accustomed to hearing from you - maybe because you necessarily just skimmed the surface. I really like the second paragraph, though, and thought you could have ended with that one - perhaps given the explanations you provided in the final paragraph first, then asking if we have rented out the Lord's holy place. Just a thought (and maybe it's just me, since I often like being left with a question to ponder).

    The second paragraph really made me think - liked that :-)!! Thanks.

    1. This grew into a much longer piece than I had originally intended, it had to radically trimmed. . .I tackled a BIG topic for a small homily. Should've saved it for a Sunday Mass.

    2. And thanks for the Sartre! It really fits my mood right now. :-)

    3. Oh dear. I'm sorry ;-).

  2. This morning I read the readings and really wanted a Fr. Philip homily to go with them - or any homily for that matter. So I looked this one up, and saw why. Thanks - I think our GAs are back on speaking terms!