Monthly Archives: July 2017

Temples of the Living God

If we are temples of the living God as St. Paul suggests, who is building our temple?  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Co 3:16)

God creates us in his image and likeness.  He offers to dwell in us through his son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. (John 14:23)  In Old Testament times God dwelled in a tent and then in a temple, but Jesus declared that a time was coming when true worshipers would worship the Father not in the temple of Jerusalem, but in Spirit and truth. (John 4:21)

In fact, he referred to himself as the temple when he cleared the temple of money changers.   “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days,” he said. (John 2:19)

Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the builders labor in vain.”  So, who is building our temple?  Are we seeking the Lord’s help or are we trying to it by ourselves?  How is our character and conscience being formed?  Is it with the help of the Lord, or are we leaving him out of the process?

Many of us who are Christians had Christian parents who raised us in Christian homes.  While this may not be true for everyone, from the time we began to understand, our parents would teach us what was right and wrong.  If we were Catholic, they sent us to Catholic schools or saw to it that we received religious education in our parish church.  If we were Protestant, they sent us to Sunday school and took us to church on Sundays and saw to it that we were raised in the Christian faith.

My Father was Baptist and my mother, Catholic.  My brother and I were raised Baptist, and I remember going to Baptist Sunday school every Sunday throughout my elementary school years.  When I was twelve, I became interested in my mother’s Catholic faith, and became Catholic a couple of years later.

As we grow older, whether we continue to grow in our faith becomes our responsibility.   While God continues to invite us to grow closer to him, he gives us compete freedom to accept or reject his invitation.  He offers us several tools, however, to help us build a temple for his presence. 

The first is as simple as conversation with him, which we call prayer.  The second tool is his word.  The Bible reflects his word in many different forms.  If we read his word regularly, we can come to know God better.  We can take on the wisdom his word provides.  We can learn from the lives of the people of the Bible, the words of the prophets and the psalms.  We can learn from the teaching of Jesus and the example of his life.

One of the most important tools God gives us is his church.  Through the church he gives us sacraments to experience his grace and presence.  Through his church he gives us a community of believers to strengthen our journey.

God makes all these tools available so that we can build a temple for him to dwell in.  Many of the cathedrals of the world have taken decades to complete.  Our temples take a life time.      

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Doing the Father’s Will

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21)

How do we know if we are doing the Father’s will?  There are several cross referenced scriptures to these words of Jesus that may provide clarification.

The Apostle John says, “Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)  Declarations of love are fine, but unless they are supported by actions, they ring hollow and fade.

James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”   It doesn’t do us any good to read or listen to the Word of God and then not do what it says.  James says it is like looking at yourself in the mirror and then immediately forgetting what you look like.  (James 1:22-25)

When we think about fulfilling God’s will, we often think of the big decisions in life such as where will I go to college.  What should be my major?  Should I consider a religious vocation?  Should I marry?  What kind of job should I seek?  Where should I live?  How many children does God want us to have?

However, the small, everyday decisions are often just as important in fulfilling God’s will because they tend to set the pattern or habit that determines whether we fulfill God’s will with the larger decisions.

This past week, I encountered one of those small decisions.

As a Eucharistic minister for my church, I take communion to residents at a local nursing home once or more a month.  Our usual practice is to have a group service for those who are ambulatory, and then go to individual rooms for those who are not and to the third floor where the Alzheimer residents reside.

I was informed by the social director that one of the Alzheimer residents was indisposed and that left only one other person, whom I will call Shirley, who is usually sleeping and most of the time doesn’t receive communion.

My first reaction was to skip the third floor and return home, but then I thought maybe I should check to see if Shirley was awake.  It turns out that she was in the third floor dining room just finishing her breakfast.  I went to her table and asked if she wanted to receive communion.  She did not respond.  I knelt down on one knee by her chair, put my hand on her hand and asked if she wanted to say the Lord’s Prayer.  She nodded yes, and we slowly recited the Lord’s Prayer together.

I again asked her if she wanted to receive communion, and she said, “I want to be a good girl.”  I said, “Shirley, you are indeed a good girl and God loves you very much.”  She then received communion.  The next thing I knew she was grabbing my hand and kissing it.  I was a bit embarrassed as I withdrew my hand, but realized that in her uninhibited way, she was responding to God’s love.  I was just standing in as his agent.

It was a small decision to go to the third floor, but both Shirley and I were the beneficiaries.