Friday November 23, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59) Gospel (St. Luke 19:45-48)
When we look again at that first reading today from Maccabees we are reminded, as we talked about earlier in the week, that the Church is giving us these readings now at the end of the Church year as a reminder of what is going to happen in the future at some point. What has happened is a prefiguration of what will happen. And so we saw, for instance, the persecution of the Jewish people. We saw that they were forbidden to practice their faith; we saw that there was an abomination that was placed above the altar of holocaust; and now we see the cleansing of the temple. It is really the celebration of Hanukkah that is going on, that is, the eight days of the dedication of the altar that we hear about in the first reading – but it is the fact that it is going to be rededicated, that they will be re-established.
And so, too, we see that same pattern for us. It is another important point for people who think that the end of the world is about to happen. All they need to do is look and say, "First of all, it has not been forbidden to say Mass; it has not been against the law. The faith has not externally been destroyed and it has not been re-established." So, once again, we are not in any kind of situation where we can suggest that the end of the world is about to happen; there are too many things that need to happen first. There is going to be a purification. All these things have to take place, but then Our Lady promised that there would be the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart. That will be the re-establishment of the faith. That will be setting up the faith once again and being able to offer the ultimate holocaust, which is Jesus in the Eucharist. So all these things need to happen. We need not fear – not that we should anyway: If the world was going to end, we should be rejoicing because that would mean that if we were in the state of grace we would go to Heaven. But instead it means that we need to deal with the rest of the stuff. Some of us are going to have to live through it all, and so we just need to remain faithful and we need to keep moving forward.
But we also need to look at what Our Lord is talking about in the Gospel reading and make sure that when we consider the temple, as we think about the rededication of the altar and setting up the faith again and being able to practice the faith the way that the Jewish people were able to do - and that one day these same patterns are going to happen within the Church - that we also need to think about what is happening within ourselves. At the time that Our Lord was speaking, there were all kinds of unfortunate things that were going on in the temple. The Lord told them, "My house is to be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves." So we need to make sure that we are not doing anything similar to that, that is, that we are keeping God’s house as a house of prayer and that we are not stealing anything from the Lord. That is, first of all, that we are not taking away from what the purpose of the church building is, and secondly, that we are not removing anything from the Lord as far as prayer and adoration. You can look at what these people did when they rededicated the temple: They spent eight days of prayer and adoration to God.
And so, too, we need to consider that while they had a temple that was dedicated to God, we have God, literally, right here and we need to make sure, then, that we keep this place and every church as a place of prayer and adoration - that it does not become a den of thieves, that it does not just become some place where the people can gather and do whatever it is that they want and pay no attention to the Lord. This is a house that is dedicated to God and we do not want to take that away from Him at all. It is easy for us to make all kinds of excuses and rationalize our way around things and be able to say, "Well, at least on Sunday we have Mass and that is dedicated to God, but now we can use the church for other reasons." We do not want to do that. We need to make sure that the church is solely for the purpose of the worship and the adoration of God, that it is a house of prayer. That is what the Lord intended for it and that is what we need to make sure we keep it as: a house of prayer - and not turn it into a den of thieves, either by the nonsense that goes on in the church or more importantly, for us individually, by making sure that what is going on within our own heart, within that internal temple of the Lord, that it is a place of prayer, that it is a place of worship and adoration, and especially when we individually come before the Lord, that we keep it pure, that we keep it a place of prayer. And if we have fallen away from that, then we need to learn from what we heard in the first reading. Rededicate that interior temple; offer it to the Lord once again. Take away the abomination that we have made it into a den of thieves, and once again dedicate it to God with prayer and adoration.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.