Friday September 23, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Haggai 2:1-9) Gospel (St. Luke 9:18-22)
As the people of Israel came back from the captivity in Babylon and were going to rebuild the temple, they looked at the temple of God and saw it in ruins. So God asked the question through the prophet Haggai, as we heard in the first reading: Is there anyone among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how does it look now? Does it not look as nothing to you? Then the Lord goes on to tell us that the future glory will be far greater than the former glory.
That certainly happened in a physical way. The temple that was built, for instance, at the time of Our Lord was considerably larger than the one Solomon had built and was considerably fancier than the one Solomon had built. Yet when we really stop and think about what Our Lord has promised, He told us, first of all, that the day is coming when He is going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land, and then tells us that He is going to fill His house with glory.
Now the glory that He is talking about is Our Lord. That is the greatest glory of all. He is the One who is the treasure that is contained within the temple of God. We are told: In this place I will give you peace. Who is the one who gives peace? The One Who says, My peace I give you; My peace is my gift to you. Where are we going to find peace other than in Jesus? This world offers no peace, absolutely none. There is nothing in this life that is going to bring peace except Our Lord.
When we see these points, we understand that the future glory of the temple of God is far, far greater than all the glory of the temple that Solomon built or even of the one that Herod built. Of course, even as we look at the beauty of a church, we have to remember that the temple in which God receives the greatest glory is us. We are the temple of the Lord. Saint Paul makes that exceedingly clear, that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. If this is the case, the glory that each one of us has is infinitely more than the glory of the building in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. We could look at a beautiful church and it could be worth millions of dollars. So what? The day will come when that is going to pass away. But our souls are immortal. And if our souls are in the state of grace and we are united with Jesus, then we have peace. When we receive the Blessed Sacrament, we have within us an infinite treasure which churches that are worth millions of dollars cannot compare. The dignity of the human person is way beyond even the most beautiful building that the most talented artist could make.
We need to be able to see this dignity that God is making within us, in fact, that He has made within us. And we need to be able to recognize the treasure that dwells within, the treasure, first of all, that we are made in His image and likeness, and the treasure beyond that that we are able to receive Jesus into our own selves and that we carry Him within us. This is exactly what Saint Paul reminds us of, that we carry this treasure in earthen vessels so that its surpassing power will be made clear. The surpassing power is the infinite beauty of God. So we, our human bodies made of this earth, have been given a treasure that is infinite and inexhaustible. Now what we want to give back to God is a temple that is filled with peace, that is filled with love, that is beautiful beyond all measure. The beauty of that temple is to live according to our dignity and to be one with Jesus Christ, so that in love with Jesus we are giving to God what is most fitting and most beautiful to Him. Then when Our Lord looks upon us, whether He looks at a beautiful church or anything else that is in this world, He will be able to say that the glory of this house – your body, your soul – is far greater than the former glory of any temple. The dignity within us is greater than the glory in any building that human hands have made, and in this place – the temple of our bodies in union with Jesus Christ – there will be peace.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.