VII.O.T. Lev 19:1-2, 17-18; I Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48
Every Sunday we come to Church to pray. Why do we come to church? Can’t we pray home? Do we need beautiful, magnificent buildings with stained glass windows to worship? What is the relevance of church building? In the early church, when the church was being persecuted they prayed in homes or the domestic churches. But as soon as the church got freedom, the first thing they made was to build churches. For one thing they could not be assembled in houses and most houses would not provide ideal conditions for celebration of Mass, devoid of distractions.
Temple or Church is the meeting place of God and man. God meets us not outside of ourselves, but in us. I meet God in my soul, in my heart. That is why Paul says: You are the temple of God. So primarily prayer is a personal encounter with God. That is why Jesus said: when you pray go into your room… close the door (of your senses) and pray to the Father who listens to you in secret. Yes, prayer is a personal relationship with God, and it is an individual experience, but it is far from a private experience! When we become a Christian our faith is not dependent on anyone else—each of us is saved by our own trust in Jesus. However, when a person becomes a believer in Christ he/she becomes part of the family of God—the church. We become a living stone in Paul’s language. Just as a baby is born into a family and grows and matures, so Christians are born into spiritual families that help believers grow and mature. Although believers can pray and worship on their own, we are also told by Jesus to do these things together too. (When two or three are gathered together…) An experience of encounter takes place when two meet. With one person there is no meeting. God is present everywhere. But for us to bring our presence, awareness we need suitable convenience. That is why we need suitable place and objects for worship.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...”
Meeting together is important to our spiritual growth and encouragement. We are to “spur one another on” to those things that will help us grow as believers. We learn, we share, we sing praises to God and pray in Christian gatherings. Have we ever sung a hymn when we prayed alone ?
God does not save us as individuals. He saves us a community. He saves us together in one person- Jesus the head and we all are the members of his one body. In the end all will be subject to Christ and there will be only Christ and Christ will be subject to God and God will be ALL. And we profess that in the creed: we believe in the ONE Catholic Church. And that is why we have to come to Church on Sundays together, because I am not saved myself but saved with others.
The Church expresses this awareness - that our bodies really are temples of the Holy Spirit - in many ways. One of the most common ways is through the different postures we use during the Mass. The Mass is the perfect prayer, the perfect act of worship. We pray as ONE- through him with him and in him. And when we come to Mass, we come to pray, to adore God, to encounter him and be strengthened by him. We don't come to be entertained.
That's why we don't just sit in the pews during the whole Mass, as we do in a movie theatre, as just passive observers. But here, we are all members of the Body of Christ, and we are actively engaged in the supernatural events that go on in every Mass.
We stand when the priest and ministers enter the Church - because we are welcoming Christ himself, and we too are pilgrims on our way to the altar of heaven. We open the Mass with the sign of the cross, because our very bodies are holy and are part of our prayer. We stand again before the Gospel is read, to show our deep respect for the words and deeds of Christ, our Savior. And we consider the Gospel as the person of Christ, and that is why the Gospel is accompanied by candles. We stand when we pray the Creed, to show that our whole lives are committed to what we profess in that prayer. And during the holiest parts of the Mass, when God himself comes anew into our presence during the consecration, we kneel. Our bodies matter to God, because we matter to God, and the Church wants us never to forget that.
It is difficult to live in accordance with this truth, that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, in a world that tells us just the opposite, in a world that tells us that our bodies are just toys, or objects of material indulgence and pleasure.
Because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we can actually show God how much we love him by the way we treat our bodies. When we abuse our bodies we are saying to God: "I don't really believe that you dwell in my heart, that you are interested in my life, so I will just do whatever I feel like, whatever everybody else is doing." But when we take care of our bodies, motivated by faith and not by vanity, we are saying to him: "Lord, you have taken up residence in my heart, and I want to honor you by never forgetting that." This is why Christians should be healthy and balanced even in the basic things of life, like nutrition, exercise, and sleep. This is also why Christians will think twice before jumping on the bandwagon of the latest body-abusing trend, whether tattoos, piercing, cutting, immodesty, substance abuse, or sexual immorality. The world may consider those things wise, but, as St. Paul reminds us, “the wisdom of the world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
Paul reminds us not to desecrate God’s temple, ie. we are. When Jerusalem temple was desecrated, Jesus got raged and drove them out of there. Is he happy with the temple that I am ?
When we treat ourselves with respect we learn to treat others also with true respect, the respect that is due to sons and daughters of God.
Today’s first and third readings are invitations from God to be holy as He is holy. God expects us to be holy people sharing God’s holiness by embodying His love, mercy and forgiveness. It also gives us the way to share God’s holiness: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The responsorial psalm challenges us to be like our God –kind, merciful and forgiving.
The gospel tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they treat others with loving kindness and mercy, even if they don’t deserve it. That is the way to become perfect or whole or holy in the sight of God.
As we continue with this Mass, Jesus will remind us, powerfully, that our bodies really are his temple, that our lives really do matter to him. He will come to us not just spiritually, but sacramentally, physically, through the Eucharist.
When we receive him in Holy Communion, let's ask pardon for the times when we have abused our bodies, and let's beg him for the courage we need to honor him by caring for the temples that we are.