Thursday January 27, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hebrews 10:19-25) Gospel (St. Mark 4:21-25)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul, speaking to the Hebrews, says, We have confidence of entering into the sanctuary through the new way that the Lord has opened for us, through the veil. It is, he tells us, a “living way” because it is His own flesh. In the Holy of Holies in the temple of the Israelite people, there was that large curtain which separated the rest of the temple from the Holy of Holies; and the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies only once each year in order to sprinkle the blood upon the altar. Now Saint Paul is telling us that Our Lord has entered into the sanctuary, the one not made by human hands, and He has entered there through the flesh. Just as the curtain in the temple was torn in two at the moment that Our Lord died, so too His own flesh has been torn in two, right at the point where His heart is, where the sword pierced His heart. His flesh is opened so we can enter in.
But we also recognize that there is (as there is in so many things) something of the inverse going on. Since as yet we are not able to enter into heaven, since as yet we still have to live in this vale of tears, since we cannot enter into God, God enters into us; and He does so through the exact same means. God has made a sanctuary for Himself. It is something that is not made by human hands. It is your soul. When you receive Holy Communion, Our Lord enters into that sanctuary through the veil, through our own flesh, as we receive Him in our bodies; but it is food for the soul. And so the Lord enters into this sanctuary that He Himself has made. It is a sanctuary which is going to last forever because our souls are immortal. It is there that He has chosen to dwell as He enters into us, waiting for the day that we will enter into Him, when our souls will enter the greatest and the most perfect sanctuary – which is heaven – when we will enter fully into the Person of Jesus Christ. But now He enters into us. Certainly, we are also to enter into Him as He enters into us, which is once again merely a foreshadowing of what is going to happen in heaven, but we have this already going on.
You see what God has done to make for Himself a dwelling place within us, a place just like what eternity is going to be. It is a place not made by human hands. It is a place set aside in each one of us for God alone. It is a place where the Lord Himself will enter. It is the garden enclosed, according to the Song of Songs, the sealed fountain. That garden opens only for the Beloved; there is no way that anyone else can get there, only the Lord in the Eucharist. So as we receive Holy Communion, this is something that we need to be aware of: the dignity that God has given to each one of us. Each one of us, we know, is the temple of the Lord. Each one of us has this holy of holies, and the High Priest can enter there – thanks be to God! – no longer only once a year because the veil has been torn open and He can now enter anytime and every time that we receive Holy Communion.
If we are willing to open our hearts to be able to receive Him, then our souls become transformed more and more. Our entire person becomes transformed more and more into the perfect image of the sanctuary of heaven, and already on earth we are sharing in the worship of heaven because who is it that we have right here other than God Himself in the Blessed Sacrament? He enters into this holy of holies and it is there that He is worshiped. That is what eternity is going to be. We are going to be worshiping God in the sanctuary that was not made by human hands that is eternal in heaven. But already it has begun because as we enter into our own souls to be with Christ, into the very depths of our being, we have the sanctuary not made by human hands, we have a sanctuary which is intended to live forever in heaven, we have there the place where God has chosen to dwell, the holy of holies, and He enters there through the veil of the flesh. We are also called to enter there, to enter into Him as He enters into us, to be united with Him as He unites Himself with us, and to worship Him as He deserves to be worshiped in this spiritual place, in this immortal place, in this sanctuary that God has made for Himself.
That is our call and our dignity. This is what we are going to do for all eternity, and He is giving us an opportunity now to learn how to do it perfectly as the worship of heaven comes down to earth, as we await the day when our soul will go from earth to heaven where we will enter into the fullness of the divine and heavenly worship; but already now it has begun. The angels worship God within our souls. Our Lady worships her Son within our souls. The whole heavenly court is present when Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist. And we receive Him into this holy of holies! The worship of heaven is going on inside of us! The only thing that is sometimes missing is we ourselves. So recognize the mystery that is happening inside of your own self. Enter into the holy of holies with our High Priest, and there, in the sanctuary not made by human hands, enter through the veil of the flesh and give Him the fitting worship and adoration which is His due.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.