Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Temple of God is Holy

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The Lord Jesus was greatly displeased when he saw the merchants who sold animals for sacrifice and the money changers in the temple area. So displeased was he that he made a whip out of cords and drove away the merchants with their animals and overturned the tables of the money changers. This part of the life of Christ is called the cleansing of the temple. The Lord cleansed the temple of everything which does not belong to it. Consumed by zeal for the house of God, Jesus cleansed the temple of the things that hid its real identity. For many people, the temple was the place they fulfilled their religious obligations. For others, it was a venue for trade and profit, literally a marketplace. But for Christ, the temple was the House of his Father: “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” Jesus loved the temple on account of the One who dwelt there: his heavenly Father. When he was a young 12 year old boy, unknown to Mary and Joseph, Jesus remained in the temple because “I have to go about doing my Father’s business.” Thus, by cleansing the temple of the merchants and moneychangers, Jesus showed all people that the real splendor of the temple is not in the precious stones that adorned its walls. The real splendor of the temple is its holiness which is derived from the One who dwells in it: God himself. “The temple of God is holy,” said St. Paul in the 2nd reading.

This is what it means when we celebrate the consecration of a temple. When a temple is consecrated, it becomes a building set apart exclusively for divine service. To consecrate a temple is to offer a building to the Lord. Thus, the temple becomes holy because the God who dwells in it is holy. When we say that God is holy, we mean that God is unlike any of his creatures. Thus, when we say that the temple of God is holy, we mean that this building is unlike any other buildings. This is not a place for socials. We do not come here to meet people. We do not come here to meet the priest. We come here to meet the Lord and to enter into communion with him. Thus, at the beginning of the Mass, we are greeted with: the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you!

In this temple, the center of everybody’s attention is the Lord. The object of worship done in this place is the Lord. The orientation of this building and everyone who enters here is the presence of the Lord. Here, we cease looking at ourselves. Here, we cease looking at one another. Here, we look at the Lord who in turn, looks at us. Here, we do not talk to ourselves. Here, we do not converse with each other. Here, we engage in a loving conversation with the Lord. This loving conversation is called “prayer.” Thus, as the Lord Jesus purified the temple of everything that does not belong to God, so also we must purify this temple of everything that hinders us from being absolutely oriented to the presence of God. We must rid ourselves of everything that defiles the holiness of this house of God: all thoughts, conversations, and behaviors that do not speak of God nor reflect the holiness of the Lord. Unfortunately, we behave only between the start of the Mass and its end. Outside the Mass, we move about in this church as if it were an ordinary building. If the priest is not looking, we act as if we ignore the abiding presence of the Lord in this place. We talk and talk and talk as if the owner of this house were not here. And remember, the owner of this house is not the priest. Nor are the people who built this temple. Because this place is consecrated to the Lord, it now belongs to the Lord. Let us keep it this way. Perhaps, we should always listen to the word of the Lord as being addressed to us: “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Let us be consumed by zeal for the house of the Lord. The temple of God us holy! 

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

No Longer a Commandment but our Response

Charity at the Main Building of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The Lord Jesus was asked: Which commandment in the law is the greatest? He was asked for a commandment but the Lord responded with two: the commandment to love God with all one’s being and the commandment to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. In this way, the Lord tells us in very clear terms what charity or love really is. In a world where love is a much abused word, the teaching of the Lord on the two greatest commandments is very important.

First of all, we have to say that the commandments to love God and neighbor are based on the reality that God is love. It is God who can reveal to us what love is because He is love. We learn how to love because God loved us first. Love is authentic only if it imitates the love of God for us. How does God love us? He loves us by giving us himself: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…True love is self-giving. It is self sacrificing. ”Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1.)

Love is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us. God loved us first. We did not love him so that we may be loved by him. He loved us first and because of this, we learn to love him in return. He loved us by giving himself to us. Thus, we can only love him by giving ourselves to him: all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. Everything we have and everything we are comes from him. Therefore, we love him with everything we have and everything we are.

Because of this, it is only God whom we should love above all. It is only God whom we should love for his own sake. All other loves are motivated by this response to God’s love for us. I am able to love my neighbor because God loves him in the way he loves me. I love myself because God loves me: “It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend.” (Deus Caritas Est, 8.)

My relationship with God enables me to see others in the way God sees them. My relationship with Him helps me see the image of God in every man. On the other hand, my love for God becomes real when I love my neighbor. For how can I love the God whom I do not see if I do not love the neighbor I see? “Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbour from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service to others. Love of God and love of neighbour are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first. No longer is it a question, then, of a ‘commandment’ imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others. Love grows through love. Love is ‘divine’ because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28).” (Deus Caritas Est, 8.) 

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

The Final Purification of the Elect


These past two days have forced us to confront a reality which we normally avoid: the reality of death. By visiting cemeteries, we remember those who have gone before us. But remembering them, we also are reminded of the fact that we shall later be wherever they are now. Death for us inevitable because “through the disobedience of one man, sin entered into the world and together with sin entered death.” “Even though man’s nature is mortal, God has destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator, and entered the world as a consequence of sin.” (CCC, 1008.) Therefore, had Adam and Eve not sinned, we would not die. Had we not sinned, we would not die. “Death entered the world as a consequence of sin.”

How can death be a consequence of sin? God is the Creator and Source of life. In him, we live. In him, we move. In him, we have our being. In as much as sin separates us from the Lord, it separates us from him who is Life itself. And when we separate ourselves from Life, we have nothing but death. It is only in the Lord that we shall have life. Only in him do we live. In fact, this is what God desires for all of us. He does not want us to die because if he did, then why did he give us life? He wants us to live and that is why he calls us to turn back to him. So long as we are afflicted with sin, so long as we stay away from him, we shall never have life. It is only by living with him in heaven shall we have life to its fullest.

Therefore, in order to have life which is full and eternal, we have to be purified from sins. If Heaven is the communion of life and love between God and the angels and saints, sin has no place in it for in God there is no sin. The only way to enter into this communion of life and love is to be purified from everything that separates us from God. “Everyone who has this hope based on him (God) makes himself pure, as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3) Thus, we strive to be purified from sin by repenting to the Lord and by acts of penance that make reparation for our sins. We cannot enter heaven unless we are totally purified of sin.

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect…” (CCC, 1030-1031) “This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: ‘Therefore (Judas Maccabeus) made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.’  From the beginning, the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic Sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: ‘Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.’ (St. John Chrysostom)” (CCC, 1032.) The teaching of the Church is very clear: “Not by weeping, but by prayer and almsgiving are the dead relieved." (St. John Chrysostom)

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!