Building and Rebuilding the Church, Catholic Online Year of Faith Homily Series, September 24, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Catholic Online Homily Series for the Year of Faith
September 24, 2013

In today’s first reading from the Book of Ezra, we see the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem after the exile.

During this Year of Faith, it’s important for us to see the link between the rebuilding of the Jerusalem sanctuary with the rebuilding of three other temples: Christ himself, the true Temple, on the third day; the Church, not as a building but as a people, which St. Paul calls collectively the “Temple of God” (1 Cor 3:16); and each of us, whose body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” and called to be living stones in the spiritual edifice that is the Church (1 Cor 6:19; 1 Pet 2:4).

Just as the Temple in Jerusalem needed to be restored with hard work, incredible generosity, and perseverance, so each of us and the Church as a whole are in constant need of reform, of getting back into shape, by a greater conformity with the True Temple who is Christ.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the Temple as he seeks to build as a family. When Jesus was told that his Mother and relatives were outside the crowded house where he was teaching and healing wishing to see him, Jesus used it as an opportunity to say that he can come from heaven to earth to found a family. That family would be characterized by particular behavior: “My mother and my brothers,” he said, “are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Mary is the greatest icon of the Church because she more than anyone heard God’s word and put it into practice, making her whole life a commentary on the words she said to the Archangel Gabriel, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Likewise, for us to be a true member of that family, a living stone of the Temple built on Christ the cornerstone, we need to do more than cry out “Lord, Lord,” but actually do God’s will, hearing his word and putting it into practice (Mt 7:21).

St. Ambrose had a remarkable commentary on the type of Marian familiarity and fruitfulness each of us is supposed to have with God’s word. The Blessed Mother at the Annunciation became a fitting Temple of the Lord, a sanctuary for the Most High God. But as unique as the incarnation of the Word in Mary’s womb was, there is a way in which each of us is called to participate in that very mystery.

He said that there is only one Mother of God in the flesh, but in faith, Jesus Christ is supposed to be the progeny of us all. Each of us is called to conceive the Word of God within us, become impregnated by that Word, allow it to grow and grow so big that eventually we can’t help but give birth to the Word by sharing Christ and his Word with others in our own words and flesh.

Pope Benedict, commenting on St. Ambrose’s insight in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, said, “Thus what took place for Mary can take place in each of us, in the hearing of the word and in the celebration of the sacraments.”

Once we grasp for example that the celebration of the Mass is meant to be a recapitulation not only of the Annunciation but also Mary’s life, it changes the whole way we approach the Mass. God’s word is announced to us and we’re given the awesome opportunity, responding to God’s help, to allow our whole life to develop according to God’s word. And we have the privilege to receive within the same Word made flesh that dwelled within Mary for nine months, allowing him to grow within us and sharing a union that goes far beyond an umbilical cord.

That gives new meaning to the expression of today’s responsorial psalm, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” The Lord himself comes to set up his sanctuary, his temple, within us!