Tuesday February 12, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30) Gospel (St. Mark 7:1-13)
In the first reading today, we hear Solomon going before the altar of the Lord in the temple that he had just completed. Yesterday, we saw how the glory of the Lord had filled the temple. And today we hear the prayer that Solomon utters before the Lord: He says, "The heavens, indeed, the highest heavens cannot contain You. Is it possible that You would come to dwell in this temple? How much less, if the heavens do not contain You, can this temple which I have built contain You!"
Yet, if that is not enough, we can look at it and say, "Jesus Christ, who is God, is present in the form of a piece of bread. And also, the Holy Trinity - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - dwell within the heart and the soul of each and every person who is in the state of grace." So if we marvel at the fact that God would come to dwell in a temple made by human hands, marvel even more at the fact that God would come to dwell within the temple that is you, that is your soul, that is your heart. It is the temple that He has made for Himself, and it is the temple where He desires to be glorified more than in any other place.
That is why Our Lord can say, "This people give Me lip service, but their heart is far from Me." He wants the heart. He does not want external observance; He wants the heart. He wants the whole person. And so, if we are the temple of the Lord - and the Lord is condemning the Pharisees today because of all their man-made traditions and the washing of the outside of things while the inside remains filthy - it is imperative for us, then, to make sure that what is on the inside is purified, to make sure that our heart is clean so that we will have a fitting place for the Lord. Even though it does not seem to make any sense to us that God would actually want to dwell within us, that is His choice. Our part, then, is to accept what it is that He is doing and to cooperate. And the cooperation is to make sure that the soul is pure, to make sure that the temple which is dedicated to the Lord (and was dedicated to Him on the day of Baptism) is kept clean.
That is the thing that we need to continually work at: to ask the Lord in prayer to show us if there is anything in our lives that is offensive to Him and then to remove it, to get to Confession and get rid of all the sins; to ask the Lord to show us where there is something that we are making more important than Him so that we can get rid of the attachments and we can get rid of anything that stands between us and God, anything that fills the soul and thereby does not allow the fullness of the dwelling for God. We want this to be a fitting temple for the Lord; we want it to be pure and beautiful, the way that it ought to be. Any of us [could sit back and ask]: What would we want a place where God is going to dwell to look like? What would we want a church to look like? What would we want a tabernacle to look like? What would we want to put the Blessed Sacrament in? Now, what are we receiving the Blessed Sacrament into? What kind of a place have we prepared for God to dwell in?
That is what we all need to look at. As we go to Confession regularly and as we pray regularly, trust in the Lord. Ask Him, again, to show you where the temple might need to be purified, where there is anything at all that is not pure or perfect. Then [we are] to do our part to try to get rid of it so that we have a temple which is purified on the inside and is prepared, not for external observance, but for the true worship of the heart so that what we give to the Lord is the whole person. We can love Him, then, as the Lord says He desires: with our whole soul and our whole heart and our whole strength. That is what He desires from each of us. It is inconceivable that God can dwell in anything at all because God is all. But He dwells within us. And so, we simply need to cooperate and make the temple of the Lord a fitting and beautiful place for His dwelling.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.