Homily for November 18, Friday of the XXXIII week in O.T., year I
The first reading and the Gospel today have some very interesting similarities.
They both talk about a sort of purging and purification of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Old Testament reading describes how the Maccabees and the rest of the faithful Israelites restored and re-dedicated the Temple after it had been profaned by their pagan Greek oppressors. In the Gospel, Jesus casts out the sellers and money-changers. They were not pagans, but Jews who had made the Temple the venue for dishonest commerce, by which they took advantage of Jewish pilgrims who had come to pray and needed local currency and animals to sacrifice.
In St. John’s account of the episode of Jesus in the Temple, the Lord compares the Temple to His own Body, which will be destroyed during His Passion and then raised up in the resurrection. We are all members of the Body of Christ, and St. Paul teaches that we too should recognize our bodies as Temples of God. This is not just an image; the Holy Trinity dwells in us through the sanctifying grace we received at Baptism, and Jesus Christ comes to dwell in our bodies in a special way when we receive the Eucharist.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with the body in which the focus is often on achieving ideals of perfect fitness, ideal beauty and eternal youth. Those ideals are fleeting at best and often unachievable, but the way they are presented in the media make many people feel inferior when they fall short of these goals. While it is important to take care of our health, and laudable to look our best, these things are not what really gives our bodies dignity and eternal life. What matters is not so much our body fat percentage, our hair line, the shape of our nose, our youth, strength, dexterity, or any other physical characteristic. What really counts is how we sanctify our bodies as temples of God, by living according to the Gospel, with prayer, the sacraments, and works of love.
May God help us – and all people – to see that the human body is a good and beautiful creation of God, ennobled and beautified by the immortal soul that makes each person the image and likeness of God. May He, Who yearns to dwell in each and every human heart, transform our society so that every human being, regardless of health or appearance, from conception until natural death, is loved, respected, and cared for.