Posts Tagged ‘Temple’

Third Sunday of Advent – December 13, 2020

Today is Gaudete, or “Rejoice” Sunday and it is a pause in our watchfulness as we await the coming of Light to a world longing for hope. As we continue our journey into a season of darkness in the northern hemisphere, we reflect on the plundering of the Jerusalem Temple, and our transformation that grows form the ashes of despair. When we listen to the ancient carol Gaudete, we have a sense of the joy we might find amid the sadness of dark days. Click on the image above or visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUbcHfnx0pY

2 Maccabees 3

A Prayer for the Plundered

Simon lusts after control and so lies and connives to gain his end.  He appears to succeed, yet we all know from our perspective in the second millennium that a new temple brings down the Jerusalem temple and rebuilds it in three days.  This happens in the person of Christ.

The faithful who follow the good and compassionate priest Onias immediately take to the streets, the priests prostrate themselves in petition, and Yahweh answers their prayer in a surprising way.

Gérard de Lairesse: The Expulsion of Heliodorus from_the Temple

Heliodorus and King Seleucus IV both recognize the power and awe of this God of the patriarchs and Heliodorus himself undergoes a conversion.

It should not surprise us that the men in this story who grasp for control of the treasury resort to any means to achieve their ends; nor should it surprise us that God answers the pleas of these holy and faithful people.

It should not surprise us that even those enveloped in the power, money and control can have their eyes opened.

And it should not surprise us that this conversion will often happen as the result of a cataclysmic event.  We must constantly prepare ourselves for these experiences and these people.  And so we pray . . .

Dearest God, Creator, Savior and Consoler,

Lead us away from the ways of Simon and keep our eyes open for the times we want to take control. Show us how easily we may be tempted to resort to any means to achieve our own ends. Remind us to make a new temple of ourselves as Christ has asked. Remind us that we are called to be holy disciples.

Lead us to you as your faithful. Keep our ears open for your word, your message and your rescuing messengers. Remind us to intervene and intercede for those who wish us harm. Remind us to act when we see injustice.

Lead us to the Christ who dwells within us. Keep our hearts open to our own conversion. Remind us to witness for you in the marketplace. Remind us to stand and to proclaim your goodness.

We ask this of you our Loving Protector. We petition you our Loving Redeemer. We entreat you our Loving In-dweller. Amen.

Tomorrow, we move forward with the nativity story . . . 

Adapted from a reflection written on January 5, 2008.

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1674_G%C3%A9rard_de_Lairesse_-_Expulsion_of_Heliodorus_from_the_Temple.jpg

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Acts 6Into the Maelstrom

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

St. Stephen

This reading may strike home for many of us today.  Our work is going well.  So well, in fact, that it is clear that more workers are needed.  The call goes out, workers are vetted and taken in . . . and then the grumbling begins.  Camps and sides form quickly.  The Old Guard feels the need to protect certain traditions and practices against the ideas of the Newcomers.  The newest workers push against the reactions of the old timers.  Protocols and policies change.  There is discontent.  We divide ourselves into factions or sects.  We either protect what we know or we tear down what we believe to be stale.  The story we read today teaches us how to behave when we enter the maelstrom.

Footnotes help us to understand the different factions.  “The Hellenists were not necessarily Jews from the diaspora, but were more probably Palestinian Jews who spoke only Greek.  The Hebrews were Palestinian Jews who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and who may also have spoken Greek.  Both groups belong to the Jerusalem Christian community.  The conflict between them leads to a restructuring of the community that will better serve the community’s needs. The real purpose of the whole episode, however, is to introduce Stephen as a prominent figure in the community whose long speech and martyrdom will be recounted in ch. 7”. (Senior 193)

We notice almost immediately that jealousy brews against Stephen and commentary further helps us to understand the further implications of the conflict we hear today.  “The charges that Stephen depreciated the importance of the temple and the Mosaic law and elevated Jesus to a stature above Moses (6, 13-14) were in fact true.  Before the Sanhedrin, no defense against them was possible.  With Stephen, who thus perceived the fuller implications of the teachings of Jesus, the differences between Judaism and Christianity began to appear.  Luke’s account of Stephen’s martyrdom and its aftermath shows how the major impetus behind the Christian movement passed from Jerusalem, where the temple and law prevailed, to Antioch in Syria, where these influences were less pressing”.  (Senior 193)

Verse 10 tells us all: They could not withstand the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. 

I am thinking of an article I read just last night of a similar conflict in the National Catholic reporter.  Written by Tom Roberts and entitled, “Seismic shifts reshape US Catholicism,” it investigates the inevitability of change that happens when humans form a community.  Liberals find that the change taking place is happening too slowly.  Conservatives believe that the change they see happening must be halted.  Moderates find themselves squeezed between these two inexorable forces.  The conflict will ebb and flow with the natural social, political and fiscal movements and everyone begins to gather their own opinions in defense of a stance.  Tensions ratchet upward.  Wisdom and the Spirit – rather than clearing the air – are shoved into oblivion and the inevitable explosion takes place.  As Christians, rather than succumb to the temptation to splinter into groups we must find a way to come together.

When we read this story in Acts we have the opportunity to look at ourselves to see how we fit into God’s plan for the world today.  When we read the story in Acts we have the chance to examine how we witness to Jesus today.  When we read the story in Acts we are called to examine how we allow Wisdom and the Spirit to influence our daily interactions with others.

When we are called to speak as Stephen speaks we must also be prepared to disappear into the maelstrom that will follow.

When we hear another speak as Stephen speaks we must be prepared to be open to the voice of Wisdom and the power of the Spirit.

When we enter the place where a conflict is raging we are called to witness as Christians must . . . with grace, and mercy, and wisdom . . . and always in the Spirit of God.

A re-post from January 22, 2012.

Image from: http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.193. Print.

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Ezekiel 24:15-27Destruction

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The first 40 books of this prophesy are written predicting the doom and fall  of Jerusalem; and Ezekiel was mocked for believing that the impregnable Jerusalem – jealously guarded by Yahweh – would fall to the pagans.  History reminds us that in 597 B.C.E. Nebuchadnezzar and his troops swarmed into the city and violated the temple, sacking it, killing the Jewish soldiers, taking Jewish captives and carting off all that had value to Babylon.  The Jewish nation had lived too long in false security, thinking for too long that they were unbeatable as a kingdom . . . invincible as a nation . . . indestructible as a people.  They had not understood that it was their own actions that threatened their safety rather than the foreign troops.  Their refusal to adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Mosaic Law had left them vulnerable.

It is too often that as humans we do not realize our lack of understanding until we lose what we hold most dear; that is why there is something recognizable in the eyes of a fellow mourner that tells us when our sadness is truly felt by another.  It is impossible to counterfeit soul-wrenching mourning . . . nothing deceives those who have lost . . . those who have grieved.  Like the witnesses to Ezekiel’s dumbness and numbness, we cannot empathize with grief or sorrow until we ourselves have experienced deep loss.  This is human nature, for it is not until we exit from mourning that we find ourselves immutably changed.  After exile, we forever recognize honest grieving when we see it.  We do not fully and totally take in the fugitive . . . until we are bereft of all we know.

In today’s reading, we see Ezekiel’s stalwart attempt to obey Yahweh.  We watch his effort to hide his grief.  We cannot take our eyes from the drama of his transformation because somehow we understand that from this day forward the Diaspora will believe his predictions, will begin to heed his words, will try to put away their pride and anger . . . will learn to leave themselves open to the healing redemption of their God.

Ezekiel is eventually vindicated, but not until the nation has begun their northward journey into the unknown.  Ezekiel suffers great loss, but in so doing he opens himself to his mourning people . . . and accompanies them into exile.

When we find ourselves on our knees with no where lower to sink . . . we must listen for the voice that says to us . . . All sanctuaries are desecrated . . . yet you are my favored one . . . the one I send to my people . . . to accompany them in their exile. 

God turns all harm to good.  God heals, saves, and redeems.  God asks us to enter into the miracle of transforming the destruction with him, to join in the healing.  When God calls us, we must respond.  When we are sent as ministers to his flock, we must go.  When the walls of the city are impregnated and the temple gold is taken, rather than wrapping ourselves in deep mourning, let us keep our sandals on our feet, leave our turbans on our heads . . . and leave behind the pride of our hearts.  We are called to enter into a fugitive life to live for a time in which we find our sole sustenance in God.  For by this sign, the lost sheep will know that God is with them.

A re-post from October 15, 2011.

Image from: http://www.biblesearchers.com/yahshua/passovertrial/cosmicdrama.shtml

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Ezekiel 44Access and Worship

Monday, November 6, 2018

This chapter of Ezekiel’s prophecy goes into meticulous detail about who is admitted into the Temple and how.  There is no doubt that entering into God’s presence is special.  Nor is there any doubt that the Jewish people will see to it that this strict code is obeyed.  The closed gate is reserved for God himself; only the prince may sit down in it to eat his meal in the presence of the Lord.  He must enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and leave by the same way.  How fortunate we are – as New Testament people – to have the freedom to enter the Temple at all times.  How blessed we are to be temples that the Lord God loves to visit.  How wonderful the gift of God’s Spirit that settles into us to take up residence in the temple of self that we prepare.

Paul has much to tell us about our temple union with Christ.  From his first letter to the Corinthians (3:16-17; 6:19): Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;you were bought at a price. 

Paul also writes to the Ephesians (2:21-22) that in Christ the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. 

There is no doubt that once Christ has entered the Temple Ezekiel so carefully describes, we are admitted with him.  As Christ’s adopted sisters and brothers, we have been bought at a great price, we are pearls of immense value, and we are welcomed in the sanctuary of the Lord . . . the arms of Christ.

Let us remember this as we pray . . .

Holy and sacred God, you want us to be with you fully in eternity; give us the patience to persevere in our journey with you.

Good and generous God, you forgive us endlessly for our many faults and errors; give us the love to forgive all those who have done us harm.

Constant and abiding God, you accompany us now in our sorrows and our joy; give us the faith to follow you wherever you ask us to go.

We welcome you into the humble temple of self that we have prepared for you.  Take up residence there and guide us in our passage to you.  Grant us eternal access to your wisdom and grace; keep us close to you and call us to worship you in thanksgiving.  For your goodness and compassion are abundant.  Your presence and kindness are healing.  Your love and counsel are comforting.  Be with us now and always.  Amen.

Images from: http://www.theimpactpodcast.com/tip033-resting-in-the-arms-of-god/ 

A re-post from October 4, 2011.

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Psalm 17: The Inverted Kingdom – Part IX

Thursday, January 19, 2017seeking_refuge_pic

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 29, 2009.

Refuge in the Temple

If we go to an Internet search engine and type in the key words “seek refuge in a church,” we may be amazed to see how many articles pop up instantly from places around the globe.  Today is the feast day of Thomas Becket, an early British Archbishop murdered in the cathedral of Canterbury.  Through ages, humans seek physical, emotional and spiritual shelter in a structure built by human hands.  Today’s psalm, commentary informs us, is the lament of an individual unjustly attacked who has taken refuge in a temple.  “Confident of being found innocent, the psalmist cries out for God’s just judgment (1-5) and requests divine help against enemies (6-9a).  Those ravenous lions (9b-12) should be punished (13-14).  The psalm ends with a serene statement of praise (15)”.  (Senior 657)

I call upon you; answer me, O God.  Turn your ear to me; hear my prayer.

B. Child: Thomas becket

B. Child: Thomas Becket

We might seek refuge from our own terrors by looking inward to that place in which Christ dwells in each of us, by searching for and finding that quiet temple within, by being still so that we might hear the words of comfort that will settle our fears.

Turn your ear to me; hear my prayer. 


Jean Vanier

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day by Jean Vanier who sees Christ identify with the poor when he is born into the world to Mary and Joseph: How can God who is all powerful, all beautiful, and all glorious become so powerless, so little so weak?  The logic of love is different from the logic of reason and power.  When you love someone, you use her language to be close to her.  When you love a child, you speak and play with him as a child.  That is how God relates to us.  God becomes little so that we will not be frightened of him, so that we can enter into a heart-to-heart relationship of love and communion. 

The logic of the world tells us to fight, to beat others out, to be the first, the best, or the brightest.  Our culture rarely tells us to take a deep breath and think before we buy, speak, or accuse.

My ravenous enemies press upon me; they close their hearts, fill their mouths with proud roaring. 

The logic of love tells us to act for others who are marginalized, to witness, and to take refuge in the temple when we are persecuted.  Then we will be filled with God’s presence so that we might better face the challenges before us.

When I awake, let me be filled with your presence. 

When we are troubled, when we are accused, when we are anxious in any way, we might turn to the temple for refuge.  There we will find a child who embodies the inversion of all that assails us.  It will be this child who will show us the way to serenity amid turmoil.  It will be this one who will bind up our wounds.  It will be this one who fills us with a presence that is more powerful . . . and more loving . . . than any other we can ever know.

So let us begin the new year by packing up our woes, and taking refuge in the temple of God’s vulnerable love.

For more on Thomas Becket, visit the BBC link at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/becket_thomas.shtml

For more on Jean Vanier, visit: http://www.jean-vanier.org/en/home or listen to the interview with Krista Tippet of On Being at: http://www.onbeing.org/program/wisdom-tenderness/234http://www.onbeing.org/program/wisdom-tenderness/234 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 29.12 (2009). Print.  

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 657. Print.   

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Ezra 6: 19-23: Marvels – Part IV

Sunday, November 13, 2016presence-of-holy-spirit

We remember well the marvels the Lord has done for us. 

We remember that the Lord has returned us from exile.

We join the whole crowd as we rejoice at the splendid deeds done by the Lord.

We tell the world that with great joy we celebrate for it is the Lord who has made us joyful.

We tell the world that we are so full of joy that we will keep the feast.

And so we pray.

Good and generous God, you have brought us back from the darkness that haunted us, and you remind us that we are “people of the “presence”.

Good and gentle God, you have seen our plight that marginalized us, and you have come to redeemed and heal us.

Good and courageous God, you have heard our prayer of worry and fear, and you have answered us with your miracles great and small. 

Good and bold God, you have seen how we struggle with the storms of life, and you have done great things for us that are marvels in our lives.

Good and strong God, you have helped Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the Temple and now you build a Temple within each of us. 

For these marvels and wonders we give thanks. For the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we rejoice. For your holy presence we celebrate. Amen.

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1 Maccabees 5:11-27: The Holy Place

Wednesday, November 9, 2016antiochus_original

 A Favorite from November 4, 2009.

Puffed up in spirit, Antiochus did not realize that it was because of the sins of the city’s inhabitants that the Lord was angry for a little while and hence disregarded the holy Place.

Today’s reading is a frightening one and yet in verse 17 we find the key to all that baffles us when we suffer.   We become puffed up when things go well, thinking that we have achieved all on our own, forgetting that God is the source of every goodness that comes to us.  We, like Antiochus the hated pagan invader, pay no heed to holy places or holy people when we tumble head long in our belief that we have created our own good.  We, like Antiochus may succeed for a while and may even feel a certain pride in what we believe we have accomplished alone.  And we, like Antiochus will live a troubled and violent life.

Once, when I was at a low point in my life, I asked God why a particular holy place had been breached and the holy people routed.  My answer came immediately: All earthly temples are violated eventually.  All the faithful will suffer in God’s name.

When we feel squeezed.  When we feel oppressed.  When we feel unjustly condemned.  When our holy places are violated and holy people broken, we can be assured that the Lord has not chosen the people for the sake of the Place, but the Place for the sake of the people (verse 19).  We can rest in the knowledge that with or without the place, with or without the rest of the faithful . . . we can be holy, we can be constant, we can find within ourselves the Holy Place in where dwells the Spirit.  We can rest in God . . . for God alone is holy.

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Saturday, February 7, 2015roots and branches

Malachi 4 (Malachi 3:19-24)

Roots and Branches

Destruction is a familiar theme in the Old Testament; restoration is a theme in the New.  We seem always to be looking for the phoenix life – one in which our past is obliterated when we rise from the ashes of our former selves.  In today’s Noontime the wicked will be like ashes under the feet of the righteous.  This place which Malachi describes does not appear to offer resurrection; evidently there are actions from which there is no turning back.  The New Testament Jesus calls all of us – even those who seem to be lost in total perdition.  In today’s reading we hear that neither root nor branch will survive the coming fire.  There will be no source of renewal and no bearing of fruit for some.  We might wonder who these wicked are . . . and why they deserve this end.

This prophecy was written after the restoration and re-dedication of the Temple by Ezra and Nehemiah.  Evidently the people had not learned much from their suffering in exile.  These people sound a good deal like us.   “Unlike such early prophecies as Amos and Hosea, the late prophetic book of Malachi is not simply the voice of the observant masses against a corrupt priesthood, though it readily indicts the priesthood for its failures.  It identifies itself with Levitical priestly circles and believes deeply in the temple, true worship, and the payment of tithes as means for obtaining the blessing of the land”.  (Mays 1428-1429)  Malachi saw the corruption and witnessed truth to the power structure.  Clearly, he was ignored.  The Temple fell to final ruin in the Roman-Jewish conflict around the year 70 C.E.  We might wonder how history would have resulted differently if the temple hierarchy had acted positively in response to this prophecy.  We might wonder if we are like the temple priests whom Malachi describes to us today.

tree_vision1Psalm 119, sometimes entitled The Glories of God’s Law, is a long one but we cannot let it discourage us from exploring its verses.  One weekend several years ago I used it for a self-imposed three-day retreat on my porch at home.  Every few hours I went to the corner settee to sit awhile and look at the beauty of nature before me, and then I read and reflected on a portion of this Psalm.  I interspersed this with yoga, reflective music, and reading Thomas Merton, Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, and Henri Nouwen.  By the end of the weekend, after immersing myself in God’s Law, I had come to better understand an obstacle in my path.  By the end of that weekend I had learned how to rise from ashes so that I might not be trampled underfoot.  By the end of the weekend I had learned again how to put down roots . . . and how to lift up branches in order to bear fruit out of suffering.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1428-1429. Print.

Adapted from a Favorite written on May 9, 2011.  

For more reflections on this prophecy, enter the word Malachi in the blog search bar and explore. 

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