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33rd Sunday Year C

“All these things you are staring at now… the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another; every thing will be destroyed.” In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Amen. Good morning my brothers and sisters in Christ! Today, as most of you have known by now already, is 33rd Sunday of the year C.

 Let me begin today’s homily with the story of a man call Josh. Josh is the resident ‘humanist’ in the neighborhood. He does not go to church anymore. He goes about telling his friends that since God lives in everyone’s soul, it is not necessary for anyone to go to church to find God. His parish priest learns of this and decides to pay him a visit. The priest shows up in Josh’s house one cold winter evening and finds him warming himself by the fireside. Josh invites the priest to join him at the fireside, which he does. The priest does not talk about church attendance, although Josh suspects that is why he came. They talk about the weather. Meanwhile, the priest uses the fire-tongs to remove a burning piece of wood from the fire and places it all by itself beside the fireplace. Both men watch as the flames flicker and go out and in a short time white ash covers the once blazing piece of wood. Josh gets the message. He turns to the priest and says, “Father, I will be in church next Sunday.” Like that piece of wood we need fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the faith in order to maintain the fire of our own faith; we need the church.

Josh is an example of people who go to one extreme. There are people also who go the other extreme, people who see the presence of God only in churches and church services. We read about people like that in today’s gospel. We are not told exactly who they were but some of them were probably disciples of Jesus. They were fascinated with the splendor of the Jerusalem Temple built by Herod the Great in over 46 years and lavishly adorned with gold and silver offerings of the people. For these people the Temple is God’s dwelling place on earth and the adornment of the Temple means that the people’s faith in God is strong. Can you imagine the shock on their faces when Jesus tells them that this Temple standing in all its glory and majesty is destined to be utterly destroyed leaving not one stone upon another? As a prophetic statement the destruction of the Temple was actually accomplished in 70 A.D. by the Roman army under the command of Titus.

Jesus’ saying on the Temple is significant not only for the people of his time but also for Christians of all times. We must remember that the people of Jerusalem who were building up and decorating the House of God were the same people who were at the same time planning to destroy the son of God: Jesus himself. If they saw God in the adornments of stone and gold, why couldn’t they recognize Him in flesh and blood? When a temple becomes so superimposing that people no longer are able to see God except in it, the time for its destruction has come. How does one explain the fact that the flourishing of Christendom in the Middle Ages was associating with a culture in which human life and human rights were cheap? Think of the religious wars, the torturing and killing of freethinkers, the burning of suspected witches and the inhuman traffic in slaves. Could it be that the more people exalted the temple as the house of God the less they esteemed the human person made in the image and likeness of God?

And yet, that should not be the case. Our faith demands that we recognize the presence of God in the human person as well as in the temple. St Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are as sacred as the temple; that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1Cor 3:16). “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” 1Cor 6:19). The Christian who, like the disciples in today’s gospel, sees God in the grandeur of the temple but not in other people is only telling half of the story. The Christian who, like Josh in our story, sees God in the human person but not in the temple also is telling only half of the story. Today’s gospel, therefore, challenges us to make an effort to see and serve God both in the temple when we gather for worship and in one another after the worship. Remember, we treat the other person with respect and dignity not because they deserve it by their own conducts or merits but because God in them deserves it. In this way, our lives both in church and out of church will become one continuous act of service to the same God who dwells in the human soul as well as in the temple.

Secondly that our mortal bodies and our human achievements will one day be reduced to dust and rubbles which is a reminder that God does not dwell in a cosmetically – enhanced human body.  Jesus says that the holiest of temples will endure forever. What is the holiest of temples? It is the human heart, which is God’s chosen earthly dwelling place. Therefore we have to re-focus our attention on what is good for our souls. Let us focus on love, friendship and peace and I promise you that their fruits will endure forever.

Have an astonishing Sunday and a breathtaking   week!

+Ab Matthew Audu – Jos

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