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The Temple of God

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:
The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

NAB

Construction of the first temple took place under the rule of King Solomon. Before it was built, the priest Levites made the required sacrifices to God on an altar that dwelt in a tent. Yet, God’s people were unfaithful and the temple was destroyed by their conquerors when the Israelites were exiled to Babylon. After 70 years of exile, King Darius of Persia and ruler of Babylon decreed that the temple would be rebuilt and sent the prophet Ezra and hundreds of other learned Israelites back to Jerusalem so that the people could rightly worship the God of Israel according to their Law.

The rebuilding of the temple was a Big Deal. Only with the temple intact could the Israelites offer proper and fitting sacrifices to God according to the law that He gave them. Without that temple there was no sacrifice and no atonement for their sins.

Things look a little bit different in the New Testament. Through Jesus’ Sacrifice of Himself on the Cross there is no longer need for the temple in Jerusalem. The promises of the Old Testament had been fulfilled in Christ; the Old Covenant was made New. Christ established a new temple in His Body, and He established the Church to be His Body on Earth.

In Saint Paul’s theology, as we see in 1 Corinthians, the temple of the Church is threefold: the universal Church, the local churches, and the individual Christian. While the event of Calvary has already occurred in history, the temple of the Church is still a place for sacrifice. Every Holy Mass makes present Christ’s redeeming Sacrifice; it is represented in our current time and the graces of Heaven are poured out upon us.

But that is not all. Every moment of even the slightest suffering that we bear, we can unite to His One Sacrifice. We can choose in our daily lives to habitually participate in Christ’s One Sacrifice, and through His suffering our suffering can bring grace into our lives and the lives of those for whom we pray. For we are temples of God, and as temples, we are a place of sacrifice.

In the Gospel today Christ asks of us some very hard things: turn the other cheek, give away your cloak, go the extra mile, give to the one who asks of you, and love your enemies. These decisions are sacrifices. These choices unite us to Christ.

Starting today, work to develop a habit of uniting your spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical sufferings to Christ crucified, and you will find grace.

Susanna Spencer once studied theology and philosophy, but now happily cares for her three adorable little girls, toddler boy, and her dear husband in Saint Paul. She loves beautiful liturgies, cooking delicious meals, baking amazing sweets, reading good books, raising her children, casually following baseball, and talking to her philosopher husband. You can find out more about her here.

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