09 November 2014

We Are Not Meat for the Market

St. John Lateran Basilica (32nd Sunday)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Lay Carmelites/OLR, NOLA
Jesus arrives in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He goes to the temple and finds a thriving flea market – a bazaar for selling sacrificial animals, and bankers exchanging common money for temple cash. In a rage, he pulls out his whip, and yells, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” John notes that the disciples immediately recall Psalm 69.9: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” And the Jews, they ask for a sign. Jesus tells them to destroy “this temple,” and he will raise it again in three days. Many years later, Paul, while questioning the ignorance of the Corinthian church, teaches us that we are the temples of God and that the Spirit of God dwells within us. He says, “Brothers and sisters, you are God’s building…If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” How do we, the holy temples of God, turn our temples into marketplaces, into buildings that serve commerce rather than God? And, how do we drive out the unclean merchants and restore our temples to their proper purpose? 
In an angelic vision, Ezekiel is shown that the temple is the center of life-giving water and fruit, the heart of the nation to which and from which the waters of the world flow, “Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,” and there will be God’s abundance. For our ancestors in faith, the temple was more than a church, more than a place to gather. The temple was the dwelling place of the Most Holy, the physical site of Heaven touching Earth. No wonder then Ezekiel is shown the temple as a source of life and abundance! And no wonder Jesus is furious with the mercantile desecration of its holy purpose. 
It is not great leap to the 21st century and our own contemporary desecrations of God’s holy temples: how do we profane the dignity of the human person in name of profit and entertainment? How do we collaborate with those who would set up shop in our temples? Think about the ways our culture commercializes the body. Think about our ever-failing social norms for sex, eating, drinking, dressing. Think about how we are manipulated into lending our temples to these marketplaces, selling our finest bodies to the lowest bidder at the auction of fashion and fame. Think about how artificial contraception has become “family planning;” how abortion has become “an alternative to pregnancy;” how an unborn human person has become a “product of conception;” and same-sex marriage has become all about “marriage equality.” Every merchant knows that manipulative marketing is all about perception, illusion, finding just the right way to spin reality to make a buck or win a political argument. Our temples are sold as inconvenient waste, the stuff we throw out.  
For cash and the bottom-line, we are meat. For the culture of death—ruled by Mammon—we are cattle and lab rats, control groups and experiments. Those temples among us who are blind, lame, crippled, poor, elderly, or unborn they are all just “targets for development goals” or “the means of measurable outcomes given variables.” What we cannot be and still be temples of the Most High is a means to anything else but ourselves. Make me a means and I quickly become an obstacle needing to be removed. Make you a means to an end and you become a tool for manipulation. Turn the human person into a product, a site of commercialization, and the body becomes a snack, a tiny morsel to be gobbled up in an frenzy of self-destruction and denigration.

Hear Paul again: “Do you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person…” Why? “…for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” You are, we are temples, where Heaven touches Earth, sites of God’s abundance, moments of God’s gracious outpouring of spirit and life; we are both the source and goal of all that water, flowing in and out to feed life inside and outside our walls. Let nothing defile the holiest of God’s dwelling places: you, consumed by zeal for the presence of the Lord!

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