After Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem in 964 BC, the Bible says that the glory of the Lord filled the temple in the form of a cloud. (1Kings 8:11) For several centuries the Jewish people looked to the temple to worship, sacrifice and seek God’s presence. Because of various periods of unfaithfulness, God eventually removed his presence from the temple.
Jesus declared that from his time forward, people would no longer worship the Father in Jerusalem, but “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23) He proclaims that his body is the new temple and if it is destroyed he will raise it in three days. (John 2:19)
Later with his disciples on the evening before his trial and crucifixion, he surprises them with the words that God’s new dwelling place would be in them and all who believe. “On that day [his resurrection] you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20, 23) He continues, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The disciples and all who follow in their footsteps believing in Jesus Christ will become temples of the living God.
St. Paul confirms this when he says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you.” (1 Cor. 3:16) Again, “We are the temple of the living God.” (2 Cor. 6:16)
Through our baptism and our “yes” to God, we can accept his offer to dwell in us. Jesus, says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev.3:20)
The first time I heard the phrase, “Christ in us,” or “be Christ” to others, I reacted with skepticism. I have struggled with sin in the past and I struggle with sin today. While I may try to be like Christ, I fall far short. Certainly, I do not always live up to the Beatitudes or all the other restatements of the commandments in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. Yet, Jesus says, “Come to me all who are burdened…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Then I realized that God’s plan for his creation is to dwell in us through his son, Jesus Christ, so that we, with the power of the Holy Spirit, can partner with God in being and bringing his presence to the people and circumstances of our lives. This is where God both resides and acts in the world today – in and through us. We are called to live in Christ and as Christ, to do what Jesus did – to love, show mercy, heal, witness to the truth and share with all who come into our lives that the kingdom of God is in our midst. Jesus says, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14: 12)
“The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations…is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:26, 27)
Where is God’s temple today? We are his temple, the New Jerusalem.