The True Temple
Church buildings are sacred places in which people hope to become closer to God. The notion of “sacred place” has existed throughout human history and is the reason temples were built. This is especially true for the Temple in Jerusalem.
On Wednesday’s feast day of The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica*, we read of an incident in John’s gospel that revealed Jesus as the Messiah – the cleansing of the Temple where commercial enterprises had been allowed in. He believed business activity in God’s house defiled the very presence of God.
When He was asked why He cleansed the Temple, Jesus gave a strange response. “Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.” The next verse explained the response; Jesus was referring to the sanctuary that was His body, God’s true Temple. Furthermore, after He was raised from the dead, His followers remembered he had said this and they understood His words (John 2:21) . His body was the living presence of God on earth and it would be broken, torn down and three days later raised anew. The living God would be among His people in a miraculous way never before possible. For Christians then, the true Temple is the Body of Christ – a term which refers to the body of the Risen Christ and the Church (1 Cor 3:16). The Risen Lord is present and active in the community, his Church, for His spirit works in us and through us.
But with this fantastic gift comes two responsibilities.
First, as bearers of the Holy Spirit, we are called to be holy (1 Cor 6:19-20). We are asked to treat our individual bodies and our corporate (church) body with the highest degree of moral ethics: holiness. This is a challenge beyond our human weakness. But we can ask the Holy Spirit to work within us, calling out our sin, calling us forward in our walk with Christ, refining and purifying us to be more like Christ.
A second responsibility is to maintain the unity of the church. We are one people, one body, and one temple. It is not many mini-temples seeking to impose different and sometimes extreme ideologies. There are many members but only One Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13). The presence of God is the same presence in each of us and this presence is One.
May we rest in His work, pray against temptation, and participate with the Spirit of God in working out our holiness.
* (The Lateran Basilica is the cathedral church of Rome. It was built in the time of Constantine and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324. This feast became a universal celebration in honour of the basilica called “the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world” as a sign of union with the See of Peter.)
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