Fr. Mikael Schink S.J.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (2022-11-13)
St. Eugenia Catholic Church
+ Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We hear in today’s Gospel Christ speaking about the temple being destroyed. What he is speaking of is his fulfilment of the Old Testament law. Christ fulfils the law by, as he says, building a new temple in three days, namely the temple of his body in that he rose from the dead on third day. In this temple, the worship of the new law will take place. So we are told that the true Christian worship must take place in Christ, within the body of Christ that is the Church. There can be no worship of God outside of Christ as he is the true high priest and the only mediator between God and his people.
But also we have become temples of worship. As Saint Peter says in one of his letters: We have become temples of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit has taken his dwelling in us through the sacrament of baptism. When we become incorporated into Christ’s body, the Catholic Church, we become temples of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. And so, as temples of the Holy Spirit, the true sacrifice is no longer offered in a bloody manner with goats and calves, but the Spirit offers the spiritual sacrifice in us, a sacrifice of prayer, devotion, praise, thanksgiving, love for God and neighbour.
We must therefore beware of a kind of false exteriorisation of our faith. We may think: as long as I go to Sunday mass and avoid mortal sin, I am safe; I will go to heaven when I die. And it is true that keeping the commandments and avoiding mortal sin will get you to heaven. But if eternal beatitude together with God and his saints in heaven is our ultimate destiny, we should also act on and follow the grace that this calling entails. Beatitude begins already here on earth if we live the life of faith and walk in the spirit. Through charity, we can have friendship with God already here in this life.
An obstacle to this communion with God are our attachments to this world. Therefore, Jesus in today’s Gospel reminds us that this world will not last; it will pass away – indeed, it is already passing away. And so, we must detach ourselves from inordinate affections and make ourselves free from worldly things so as to be freer for God. This is the way of beatitude; this is the way of the saints: the way of prayer and friendship with God. How can I have a relationship with God if I am wholly absorbed in earthly things. No wonder that my head is filled with distractions when I sit down to pray, whether at home or in Church. That is also the reason why people chose a contemplative way of life – that is why some people chose to live their lives in silence and prayers, so as to be free of distractions and have more time for God.
It is of course true that we can have some knowledge and communion with God through nature. We can use created things in a good way. But we must also remember that original sin has corrupted our will and our appetites so that they do not obey reason as they did before the fall of man. And so it is easy to fall into various sins. Saint Paul mentions idleness in the second reading, but in other places, he offers more extensive lists. Thus, in his letter to the Galatians, we can read: ‘the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’
We should therefore strive to order our whole life towards God. How much we love God is manifested in times of difficulties and afflictions. Therefore, today’s Gospel passage ends with a text on persecutions. In a way, the life of a true Christian is always accompanied by certain persecutions. Our Lord knew that his teaching would not always be popular. As they have hated me, so they will hate you, he says at one place.
But we have received a special grace in order to be able to give witness for Christ. Thus, he says that we should not prepare any defence, because the Holy Spirit will speak through us. In fact, we have received a special sacrament to give witness to Christ: the sacrament of confirmation. It imprints in us a character and gives us the grace to be able give witness to Christ publicly and so offer up the sacrifice of teaching.
Let us therefore ask for the assistance of the Lord so that we can be faithful to the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask for an awareness of being a temple of the Holy Spirit and a part of Christ’s mystical body. Let us ask for obedience to the impulses of the Holy Spirit so that he can lead us swiftly to heaven, where we will see God face to face together with all the saints. +Amen.