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Musings On The Temple of God: A Lenten Reflection

Every time we attend the Holy Mass (in-person or virtual), we hear from the presiding priests time and again certain passages in the Scriptures proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Because of this repetitive listening to homilies, we became deeply acquainted with the sacred writings/teachings. The only problem is that even if we read and hear these teachings many times over, it still hasn’t completely sunk in yet. This is mainly because we simply allow them to just drift away; our minds are preoccupied with other mundane things in life. To reflect on this, perhaps we can ask ourselves: Did it make some sense of what the Gospel or the Good News is trying to tell us? Did we live God’s word out in our own lives and share it with others too?

Well, well, well. Look, you’re not probably the only one who feels guilty about this. I, myself, is one of those who listens but at times take for granted certain things, particularly when there are other pressing matters hovering over my head. Take for instance, the Gospel relative to Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, I’ve heard these many times over in the past, but I have not deeply pondered on its relevance and significance until I’ve read an article putting emphasis on it.

Many of us know that the literal and figurative meaning of the House of God is the Church, the building, where we go to worship similar to our churches and synagogues where parishioners can commune with other Church members and with God. It is impressed upon us that Temples and other places of worship should be respected, where every parishioner are all expected to behave calmly and respectfully at all times. That was probably why Jesus Christ reacted when He saw the Temple was filled with thieves and greedy merchants which led Him to utter these words: “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Sure, it was normal and rational for our dear Lord Jesus Christ to have acted that way as he personally witnessed the desecration and the lack of reverence of the House of God. Instead of worshiping and praying, the people inside the Temple were effectively busy enriching themselves.

How about these days, have we encountered similar incidents? Well, doing business transactions inside the Church may not be visible under present conditions, but there are some social gatherings wherein some activities can affect the sanctity of the Church. Prior to this pandemic, we’ve heard that there are some people who get to participate in Church activities with certain agenda, and even engage in gossiping, resulting in misunderstandings among the Church members, and adverse consequences. Instead of welcoming a “wounded” or “scarred” person for instance, some people delve and talk about the latter’s unfortunate situation and this kind of treatment pushes more the person away from the Church. Is this how a Temple of God should be? Our focus should be on God and helping other people, and not on ourselves and vested interests.

Because of Christ’s Resurrection and the grace of Baptism, we became followers of Christ and members of the Church. And therefore as friends of God, we are able to share in God’s love so we can share the same to others too. And when we are all called to serve God, and once we decide to accept the call, we are bound to change our lives, setting us free from sin and sorrow. St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians states: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” Likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church indicates: “Christ is the true temple of God, ‘the place where his glory dwells’; by the grace of God, Christians also become temples of the Holy Spirit, living stones out of which the Church is built”, and that through baptism we become joined to the one Body of Christ, and that Body, the Church, is the “one temple of the Holy Spirit”.

The said Catholic beliefs and teachings have continuously been echoed to us by our Church authorities more or less on a yearly basis, but did it ring a bell on us? The phrase written by St. Paul is truly a revelation and powerful! I thought this is one of the passages (that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, that God is with us too) that’s not quite easy to live by, especially in the modern world where TV programs and internet can influence unhealthy behavior on us all, young and old alike. How these words were repeatedly uttered to us during the homilies every year should truly resonate with us. I didn’t fully realize then that these words of St. Paul made me think about the things I’ve done, about life. It clicked with me in a way as it awakened my heart, a poignant realization actually. I asked myself, how could I have overlooked this before, for so many years? Surely, I could have done better and avoid committing/confessing the same mistakes, especially in my younger days. But, I guess it was a blessing that it dawned on me, than never!

Definitely, to be in the state of grace (in God’s presence) is one sure way to allow God to dwell in our souls. While we are striving to be holy in our daily lives, pleading to God for forgiveness of our shortcomings and failures, praising and glorifying Him through our prayers can be a comforting alternative in some ways. At times, we take things for granted, even including God’s words and commandments. We tend to abuse the goodness of the Lord because there are no limits of His love and forgiveness. But that should not be the case. As temples of the Holy Spirit, we are bound duty to clean and protect what God has given us, to take good care of it, like that of the “diligence of a good father of the family” -everything that we have, our bodies, and even the “Earth” that we live. When we fail to be good stewards of our bodies and minds for instance, we inflict pain on it, and we contaminate, harm or damage God’s Temple in a way. As such, we must strive hard to put a stop to our sinful passions, desires, words and behaviors to make us grow and mature spiritually. This may seem a mystery to me, and quite hard to comprehend. But with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and enlightenment, we will surely be able to understand what all this means.

Pope Francis, in one of his messages, stated that “living in continuous search of our personal profit, rather than in generous and supportive love” is a common temptation these days. The Holy Father said that to “cast out the merchants from the temple of Jerusalem”, we should drive the desire for personal gain and advantage from our hearts, replacing it with love. This is one way to reject the danger of making our soul, which is the abode of God, a marketplace, as further mentioned by the Holy Father.

And so this Lenten season, it would be good to reflect on this Gospel, on how we can make ourselves worthy to be called “Temple of God”. Let’s ask God’s blessings to rebuild and transform the temple of our hearts where He resides, to help us cleanse our consciences and our souls, to guide us daily in our quest to stay away from sins, to avoid temptations and other vices, and to stop making our Father’s house a marketplace. Amen.

Have a blessed Lenten Season to you all!