I. Homily – 3rd Sunday of Lent – March 8, 2015
II. “Destroy this Temple and in three days, I will rebuild it.”
A. It seems that Jesus wants us to take Him seriously.
1. I guess He was not joking when he made a whip of cords and overturned those tables…after all, He was about something very important…eternal life.
2. If He were to save them, He needed their attention…and I think He got it.
3. Some would listen. Some would set out to kill Him.
4. The lesson He taught them was twofold:
a) The Worship of God is not secondary,
b) …and, He is the Temple.
5. We, as members of His body, are also made temples, dwelling places, for God as well. Because Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, when we take communion we take our Lord into us and, hence, God dwells in the Temple He created at Baptism.
6. We were told when still very young that we must treat our body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit. It is, however, important to remember that we are temples not because of us but because of who dwells inside us.
B. “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will rebuild it.”
1. Christ’s body was a Temple, because He is God.
2. Christ, through the sacraments, makes the body of every Christian a dwelling place for the Almighty. He comes to dwell in us.
3. “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will rebuild it,” then takes on a special meaning not only for Christ but also His members. Doesn’t it?
4. Although the dead have not risen in three days, Christ does promise to His faithful people the Resurrection of the dead and an eternal kingdom of peace and joy.
5. We do know that one day the dead shall rise and at the last judgment he will invite into His kingdom those who have been faithful to Him.
6. These words have application for all of us and in every time and place, these words have a special application in our troubled world today. Don’t they?
III. This truth about God dwelling in His Temple plays out constantly in our daily lives and decisions:
A. What we will do on the weekend…
B. How, when and where we will seek entertainment…
C. How we will spend our money…
D. How parents raise their children…
E. Perhaps even where we work or where we live…
IV. …there are also moments; however, when the importance of the truth about God dwelling in His faithful people, God making them Temples that will rise again after having been destroyed cries out with crisp penetrating clarity.
A. Interestingly, the secular world often tries to hide the clarity of these moments by names which conjure feelings of refreshment, peace and joy. Names like:
1. A tree
2. A circus
3. and, A beach.
4. I don’t know about you, but I love a warm, peaceful afternoon sitting under one of the big trees at the Arboretum reading a book; I enjoy watching the acrobats and clowns at a circus; and, although I love the opportunity to sit on the beach, listen to the waves hit the shore and take up the warmth of the sun.
B. This tree, this circus and this beach deceive us. There is peace and joy on them, but not in the way we might think:
1. Tyburn tree had no beautiful green leaves. It was a gallows standing in the center of London in the 16th century.
2. The circus was in 1st century Rome and Peter saw no clowns the day he died.
3. …and the beach…well…there was no one swimming near the beach in Libya a month ago.
C. I am sometimes criticized for not being uplifting enough in my homilies…and, although I like to crack a joke every now and then, I have to confess that I believe the joy of our faith to be a pretty serious matter and I am quite certain that the 21 men who gave their lives on that beach in Libya recently thought it pretty serious as well.
1. The joy of our faith runs far deeper than an afternoon on the beach, an evening at the circus or reading under a tree.
2. Yes. I said the joy of the faith when speaking about these martyrs…not because it was not hard, but because heavenly joy is defined differently from the transitory contentment of this life and this kind of joy runs deep and forever. We often want our joy in the here and now and immediately, but these martyrs knew their true joy was found even on that beach in the face of cruel hatred…you saw the peaceful demeanor on their faces…and they knew complete, true and lasting joy comes only after this life.
3. Those men were asked to deny their faith. Since they refused…, they lost their life here on earth, but gained eternal life. How quickly would we apologize for or diminish our faith under far less trying circumstances?
4. When we do not apologize for believing in Jesus Christ, this bears fruit…sometimes immediately.
a) I have seen several reports stating that one of the 21 was not a Christian…or, at least, not a Christian when he was arrested. It is said that he converted to Christianity as he watched some of the other 20 give their lives professing faith in Jesus Christ.
b) This man who could have escaped his fate if he had just denied faith in Jesus Christ, but when he was asked in what God he believed, he replied: “My God is their God.”
D. We have all been justly horrified by the terrifying murders in Libya and the many atrocities occurring in Syria and Iraq, but the reality is that there have been more Christian martyrs in the last two centuries in countries on every continent, except Antarctica, than there were martyrs in the last 18 centuries combined…and, yet, these martyrs have something to teach us about joy…real joy…not the contentment that passes after a good meal or a nice evening together…they have something to teach us about joy.
1. We should be concerned and seek to alleviate the suffering of the large numbers of Christians and other religious minorities who have been displaced from their homes or whose relatives have been murdered at an alarming rate in a number of Mid-eastern countries.
2. We should be horrified and take action knowing that Pew Research released a study a year ago, indicating that, in the previous 6 years, social hostilities were most common against Christians, mostly Catholics…
3. …but the first thing we should do is learn the lesson the Christian people suffering these things teach us…
V. The people most directly affected by these atrocities have also given us the most beautiful and Christian example.
A. When the brother of one of the Libyan martyrs was asked what he would do if he were to encounter one of the ISIS militants on the street, he responded: “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven.”
B. What tremendous faith!
C. Indeed, this has so often been the response of Christians in every time and place. Tertullian wrote about Egyptian martyrs in the 2nd century…1800 years ago. He wrote:
1. “Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers that we thus suffer….a taint on our purity is considered among us something more terrible than any punishment and any death. Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you… The more often you mow us down, the more we grow in number; the blood of Christian martyrs is the seed of the Church.” “On this account it is that we return thanks on the very spot for your sentences. As the divine and human are ever opposed to each other, when we are condemned by you, we are acquitted by the Highest.”
2. However, it was Jesus Christ Himself who prayed to His Father: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
VI. The martyrs of every age teach us that there is nothing else more important in life than faith in and love of Jesus Christ who will soon be present on this altar.
A. The first thing we should do for the Christians of the Middle East is make our faith the center of our lives…make our faith the key to everything else in our lives.
B. I share with you now a prayer from the Eucharistic Liturgy of Syrian Christians:
1. Let thy servants praise thee, O Lord.
2. O holy martyrs and teachers of faith, pray that there may be peace in creation.
Let wars be brought to naught and contentions cease among us.
And may the church sing praises by the mouth of her children.
3. And thy saints give thanks unto thee.
4. May the holy martyrs who confessed thee in their afflictions
and propitiated thee by the blood which their necks poured forth
make request for sinners to thee, O our Lord that in the day of judgment thou mayest forgive their trespasses.
5. Let them speak of the glory of thy kingdom.
6. The martyrs saw the glory of the kingdom in their minds
when they were being killed by their persecutors
and they joyfully endured the tortures in their bodies
and our Lord Jesus Christ received their spirits.
7. Honoured is their blood in his sight.
8. Let us diligently honour with songs of the Holy Spirit
the bones of the martyrs who endured afflictions
that we may find help in the day of recompense of their labours
from the goodness of the mercies of God.
9. The Lord on high is glorious.
10. On high are your crowns and in the world are your assemblies
O martyrs, preachers of Christ the King.
On high, and to the deep, lo your feasts are celebrated.
O sowers of peace in the four quarters of the earth.
11. Seek the Lord and be strengthened.
12. O martyrs, seek for mercy from the merciful God
that he may make his peace to dwell in the four quarters of the earth.
And when our Lord is revealed and the clouds bear up your bodies
pray that with you we may inherit the kingdom.
13. My voice shalt thou hear in the mornings, O Lord
14. In the morning the martyrs cried in the judgment hall before the persecutors. We will not deny the Heavenly Bridegrooom
For it is he who delivereth us from the hands of the ungodly
and clotheth our bodies with glory in his kingdom.
I. Homily – 3rd Sunday of Lent – March 8, 2015