Treat Your Body Well
Third Sunday of Lent (B)
My dear encountered couples:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The people thought Jesus must have flipped after all that raving and ranting about the sellers and money changers. That temple took forty-six years to build, and he was going to raise it up in three days? But then we are told that Jesus wasn’t talking about the same temple they were thinking about. He wasn’t talking about the temple building where they worshiped. He was referring to the temple of his body, which would be raised up three days after his death from crucifixion.
The body of Jesus was the body of the Son of God. And of course, where God the Son is, there is also to be found God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. The body of Jesus was assuredly a temple in which God lived and acted. And it still is. How about your body? Who lives there? You do, of course. Anyone else? God, I hope. Within you, within me, God came to live when we were baptized.
Our bodies became temples of God. Our bodies, our souls, every part of us became a temple of God. As assuredly as God lives anywhere, he lives within each one of us as long as we wish him to. Only if we will it, only if we sin, will he ever leave. He will not leave on his own volition, he will not choose to ever move out from the bodies and souls of any of us. You are the one who controls that choice. You are the one who possesses the power to tell him, to force him to leave. You, and only you, can make him get out of the temple of yourself.
The Jews traveled far to get to the temple of Jerusalem. On special feast days they did their best to leave their homes and work behind and go up to Jerusalem to worship in the house of the Lord. Mary and Joseph were often among those people. When Jesus was twelve it is recorded he went there with them. You have traveled to come to this church today. You do it every week, every special holy day (I hope). You come to worship and thank God for his everyday show of goodness to you. You believe Jesus is especially present in church tabernacles under the appearance of unleavened bread. During the normal course of a lifetime you go thousands of times to one church or the other. Our churches might not have taken anything like forty-six years to build, but we come to them to show honor and love to God, whose temples we believe them to be.
But you are also the temple of God. You are a living temple. You are a moving, walking, traveling temple of the Holy Spirit. Wherever you go, there is God - in a very real and special way. Wouldn't it be nice if your parish church building could come to you, especially on rainy and snowy days? Then you wouldn't have to get out in any bad weather. You could save gas money and wear and tear on your car. And you'd have a better chance of showing up on time - before Mass started.
But then you'd miss out on all those family arguments on the way to Mass in the car – and ripping the sermon apart on the way home. “I thought Father would never shut-up.” (Sorry, not finished yet. Still have some more to say.) Jesus spoke of the temple of his body. “Destroy my body which is the temple of God,” he said, “and I will raise it up in three days.” And the same will happen with you and your body.
No matter what accident or disease comes upon you, no matter how life ages and disfigures your body, no matter that death separates you from your body in any conceivable way whatever, you will be raised in your body to the glory and bliss of heaven. For you are the temple of God. You are the home in which God now lives, and in which he is to be loved and shown gratitude.
Think of it. You are of much more value than the temple of Jerusalem, which no longer exists. You are of more value than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, which some day will crumble to dust. None of the temples nor church buildings of architectural wonder and acclaim will ever be raised again once they are gone. But we will. You and I will be raised from the dead and live forever. Forever we are to be, and will be, temples of God. That is, if we will it, if we choose it, if we allow God to dwell within us.
Most people want to look their best. And I imagine you are one of them. How much money do you spend on products to keep you looking good? How much time do you spend before a mirror trying to make yourself look even better? And for what purpose? To win someone's attention and admiration? To be acceptable and pleasing to the eye? I believe there are many people who have such low opinions of themselves that they think the only thing of worth that they have is their bodies. And so, they overspend and use up much of their time trying to look good. And not because they want to keep the temples of themselves looking good for God who dwells within them, but because they are insecure and vain.
Jesus time and time again tried to make the people of his time aware that it was not the beauty of the building structure, the exquisiteness of the decorations, the altar, the candelabra, and the many other things in the temple that gave it value. It was the God who dwelled within it. God and God alone gave the temple t its worth. When he would leave it would be nothing and would someday crumble into ruins, never to be of any worth again, other than an historical tourist attraction.
God in you is what gives you any real, lasting worth. No matter how much attention you give to your body, no matter how many wonders science comes up with to keep your body alive longer, someday it will die, someday it will be laid in a grave to return to the dust of which it is made. Will it remain just a tourist attraction underneath an expensive monument or clump of grass? Will it just take up space in a wall somewhere for people to place flowers by and cry over? Not if it was a temple of the living God. Not if God lives and acts in your body.
Lent is a time to remind us that we will all surely die. But it is to remind us that we will also surely rise - if we are temples of God. Time can and will destroy your body, your temple, any way it can. But God will raise it up. God will form a new, beautiful body for you from the ruins that lie in your grave. You, like Jesus, will rise again, and live forever, complete and entire, body and soul, in the happiness and security of his love. Because of this, your body is of divine worth. Treat it well. Use it well. Allow it to always be God's home and temple of love.