Monthly Archives: October 2022

Temples of the Living God

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Co 3:16)

If we are temples of the living God as St. Paul suggests, who is building the temple?  In Old Testament times God dwelled in a tent and then in the temple in Jerusalem, but Jesus declared that the time had come when true worshipers would worship the Father not in a temple, but “in Spirit and truth.” (John 4:21) Jesus also said that if we love him and obey his teaching the Father and he will come and make their home with us. (John 14:23)

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 do it by ourselves?  How is our character and conscience being formed?  Is it with the Lord’s help, or are we leaving him out of the process?

While God continues to invite us to grow closer to him, he gives us complete 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.  He stands ready, knocking at the door of our hearts waiting for us to open the door and invite him in.  it usually involves an intentional act on our part.  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.  We never quite finish the final touches, but God is with us as soon as we start construction.      

Where are you in the process of building a temple in which God can dwell?

Unknowingly Searching for God

“When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.”(Mark 6:20)

The Gospel of Mark reports that after King Herod had John the Baptist imprisoned, he liked to listen to him.  He had imprisoned him at the urging of his wife, Herodias because she resented John pointing out that she was also the wife of Phillip, Herod’s brother.  Herodias wanted to kill John, but initially she was not able to do so, “because Herod feared John and protected him.” 

How fascinating!  Herod was attracted to what John had to say, so he apparently visited him from time to time in prison.  He may have been puzzled by John’s words, but he was still drawn to listen.  Though he may not have realized it, Herod was searching for God.

Once when a work colleague learned that I was involved with a ministry called Christians in Commerce, he laughed and loudly proclaimed that the name, Christians in Commerce, was an oxymoron.  When we were with other colleagues he would kid me about the ministry and mock my Christianity, but when we were alone he would ask all kinds of questions about the ministry and about passages from scripture that he did not understand or agree with.  He would not admit it, but he was searching for God.

God creates us with a desire to seek him and the truth about life and existence.  It may not be a desire that is obvious to us.  Yet, we all seek meaning, purpose and what is real in life.  

We are attracted to the truth.  When Jesus explained the meaning of the scriptures about himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, the disciples later exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

Unfortunately, sin and the distractions of the world often keep us from listening to Jesus.  We listen to other voices that obscure the truth and the message God has for us.  Paul speaks to this problem in his letter to the Romans when he says, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:25)

Fortunately, God never stops working to draw us to him.  In honor of our free will, he never forces our acceptance of him.  But he made it part of our DNA to seek meaning and truth.  As St. Augustan said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests with you.”

Are we created with a built-in desire to search for and come to know God?

Pray First

“In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)

How often do we enter into a challenging situation and forget to pray for God’s assistance?  It may be a difficult meeting with the boss, or an effort to resolve a disagreement with our spouse, or a discussion with one of our children over a certain disciplinary action.

Over the years I have experienced times when I have neglected to pray and times when I remembered.  At work, I often found myself praying in the hallways and elevators as I walked to meetings where potential conflicts needed to be resolved.   The outcomes always seemed to be better when I prayed.

Here is a non-work story for which I have found memories.  Many years ago our oldest daughter was in a serious dating relationship with a young man who I had met on several occasions.  He called one day and asked if we could get together for lunch.  Since on a prior occasion he had expressed interest in a workplace ministry I was involved in, I had thought that he wanted to follow-up on that conversation. 

As I was leaving my office to meet with him, the thought hit me, “What if he wants to ask permission to marry our daughter?  How will I respond?   So, I started to pray, asking God what I should say. We had no reservations about him being a good husband for our daughter.  It was more a matter of what form should my response take for such an important request. 

After a prolonged discussion on a variety of subjects, there was a pause and then a request for permission to marry our daughter.   As a result of my prayer, I said, “Well, I have two requirements.”  His countenance gave a worried look.  “The requirements are that you love God and that you love our daughter.”  He let out a sigh, and said, “Oh, I can do that!  That will not be a problem.” 

In a postscript to this story, it turns out that our second daughter was also in a serious dating relationship.  About a month later I received a call from the young man she was dating who lived out of state.  He said that he had hoped to talk with me in person, but his circumstances did not allow it.  He was coming to town to see our daughter and wanted our permission to marry her.  Thinking back to what happened the month before, I said, “Well, I have two requirements,” and before I could state what they were, he said, “Yes and yes.”  He had obviously consulted with our other daughter’s fiancé. This past year both marriages celebrated their twenty-sixth anniversaries.   They and their families have brought us much joy and many fond memories.

The Bible is full of stories of people who prayed for God’s assistance before entering into challenging situations – Moses, Joshua, Esther, Nehemiah, to name just a few.  Jesus conspicuously prayed to the Father before commanding Lazarus to rise from the dead.

How do you pray before entering into a challenging situation?

Joy Complete

“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11)

These words of Jesus from John’s Gospel are about how we can have joy that is lasting and complete.  Over the years I have experienced joy in a variety of ways — when I proposed to my wife on a snowy Christmas eve 60 years ago this December; when I witnessed the birth of our five children; when I received a promotion in my work; when I used to hit a good golf shot; when the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl (many years ago); when I have had the courage to share about God’s grace and the saving power of Jesus Christ; when I do something for someone else instead of myself.  

The world tends to look at joy in terms of pleasure, good fortune and success.  Even Webster defines joy by using these terms.  But in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that if we obey his commands we will remain in his love and our joy will be complete.  It is ongoing.  It gives rise to a general state of well-being regardless of the circumstances.  It is a joy that survives setbacks, disappointments and even tragedies.    

Many years ago, some people prayed with me at a Life in the Spirit program to experience more of the Holy Spirit in my life.  Later, as I drove home in a blinding snowstorm on the curvy and hilly roads of northern Westchester County, NY, I could barely see beyond the hood of the car.  Yet, I was about to burst with joy from experiencing God’s presence in the Holy Spirit. The blizzard didn’t bother me one bit.

As Jesus suggests, it is God’s presence that is the source of our joy.  The more we are in his presence, the greater potential we have to experience that joy.  We can seek his presence through prayer, scripture, and the sacraments, and in joining with other Christians in his name.   

But perhaps the best way to experience God’s presence is simply to seek him at all times in our thoughts, in our work, in our time with others, and in whatever we are doing.  If our life is a constant dialog with the person of Jesus, we will be in his presence through the Holy Spirit, and our joy will be “complete.”  As the psalmist says, “You fill me with joy in your presence.”  (Psalm 16:11 NIV)

How do you experience ongoing and lasting joy in your life?