Posted by: Fr Chris | November 23, 2019

A Dwelling Place for God

I am going to focus today on the reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. The excerpt we heard today is from chapter 2, verses 14-22, which is the epistle for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel today is that of the 27th Sunday, so it just happens to match up to one of Paul’s themes, that of the conflict between adhering to the Jewish Law and being a Christian.

Luke 13:10-21 – Healed of Our Infirmities | Fr. Charles Erlandson Erlandson

In the Gospel, Jesus immediately heals the woman whom He sees, not waiting for her to ask Him to do so. Because that was an act of energy, of power, the rabbis are upset that He did this on the Sabbath and in the synagogue itself. They are so bound by the Law and its rules that they will not rejoice in the cure of someone who had suffered for years from either a physical deforming of her body or the curse of Satan. The Law most definitely allowed for livestock to be watered and fed on the Sabbath, since they were dependent on the owners for help. So even more so should God bring deliverance on the Sabbath to a person who was suffering. Sabbath is meant to be a day not only of rest but of renewal, and this woman is now renewed in a most dramatic way!

In Ephesians, Paul is talking to a Greek and Jewish community. Orthodox Jews rejected Greco-Roman culture and close relations with any Gentile. Gentiles thought Jews were very odd people who worshipped only one God instead of the pantheon of gods that everyone else prayed to, bound by a lot of strict laws regarding food, marriage, and connections with non-Jews. So there was little interaction between the two communities outside of necessities such as legal issues or shopping.

One of the big issues in the missionary Church was the role of these two communities and the place of Jewish restrictions. Paul is invoking a lot of imagery here that we do not necessarily get right away. Right before the section we heard, Paul writes about how the Greeks, meaning any non-Jew, were separated from the people of Israel as well as from God Himself. Now they have been brought close to God through the Blood of Christ, that same Blood which we are preparing ourselves to receive shortly in Holy Communion.

He is our peace, Who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility”  – the wall he is referring to is the symbolism of physical wall in the Temple in Jerusalem. This wall blocked off the Courtyard of the Gentiles from the inner courts where only Jews could pray. There was a large sign on that wall, warning Gentiles that if they went past that point they would be killed. That is how strict the separation was between the two communities. Now, Paul says, there is no wall, physical or symbolic,  physical or spiritual, that would block part of humanity from God’s mercy and redemption. The Church is not meant to be an isolated community, but a truly catholic, universal Church that embraces everyone.

Paul goes on to say that Jesus, through His sacrifice, abolished all those strict laws that cut off the Jews from the rest of the world and Jesus has made a New Man in His Body that was  crucified and risen, as Paul says, bringing the hostility to an end. This is the inauguration of a new age, the messianic age, which marks the union of all nations in God Himself. The Good News of the gospel of Christ was now being preached to both Jews and Greeks, uniting everyone through the Holy Spirit to the Father. He says in verse 19 that they are no longer strangers, but members of one united household.  If we are in a household, built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, then we are in one family, a family that everyone belongs to.  And we all belong to that whether or not we want it that way. We may not want certain people in our house, but that is really just too bad, since Jesus lived, died, and rose for the salvation of every human being.

Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone - Matthew 16:13-19 | God's Family Church – Cranston RI – You are ...

In the ancient world, the cornerstone was very important. For Jews, it was the foundation stone upon which the entire building would rest. Now the word that Paul uses for cornerstone is found only once in the entire Old Testament, in the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 28, verse 16 where God says, “I am laying in Zion a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation.” The Jews interpreted this as being not just a cornerstone but as being a symbol of the Messiah Himself.  It is this Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ Whose birth we are preparing for, that is the absolute foundation of the Church. Paul concludes with this: in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Now say to this ourselves: I am a dwelling place for God.  I am, everyone is. So, if everyone is united into the family of God through the preaching of the Gospel, then that shows just how important it is to continue to do missionary work in the name of the Faith, and why it is important that people convert. I read of a priest in the Amazon whose mission has been there for fifty-three years, but there has not been one  convert. No wonder there are no priests there- some the European priests think that baptizing Indian converts would somehow be a sign of European colonization and that all these indigenous tribes live a happy life of peace and harmony in the jungle. They ignore the rampant warfare which would come to an end if the Gospel of unity was preached, and they ignore the reality of how harsh life is in the jungle. Those people suffer from malaria, tuberculosis, polio, and have short lives due to the harshness of their world. The Gospel could bring peace among the tribes, and the traditional works of mercy that always accompany Catholic mission work would bring better health and longer life spans to these people. In a sense it is a new racism, saying that we have nothing to offer indigenous people and exalting them into some pure native condition living in perfect harmony with nature.

I am a dwelling place for God. Not only do the tribes of the Amazon need to hear this but so does Europe and North America, every Muslim country, and every remaining communist state. Each person is a dwelling place for God, each person is not only made in God’s image but has God living inside. The sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation/ Chrismation bring the soul into intimate union with God, deliver the soul from original sin, and infuse the soul with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is why it is a sin to kill, because we are attacking the image of God. This is why the unborn are so valuable – each is a unique person who will never be repeated again. This is why it is a sin that cries out to heaven for punishment that our Congress cannot even vote against infanticide, the deliberate killing of babies born alive after botched abortions. This is why it is another sin crying to heaven that corrupt bishops and sinful priests molested both children and vulnerable adults.  

This is why the dying are to be treated with reverence and love, and not pushed to commit suicide  so that everyone else can get on with their own lives and insurance companies can save money. This is why missionaries go about rescuing abandoned baby girls and abandoned children who are deformed or handicapped in some way.  This is why the Catholic Church has been a defender of human rights against monarchs, tyrants, communists and fascists alike: each living person is a dwelling place of God, made in God’s image, and will never ever be seen again on the face of the earth.

Image Cluster: Mother Teresa HD Natural Images Wallpapers Free Download

One of the main themes in the life of Jesus Christ is compassion. He had both great sympathy and great empathy for people who were suffering. He would perform miracles for those who had leprosy, were blind, were crippled or paralyzed, and raised the dead for those who were mourning. In His infancy and childhood, Jesus had to be taught by Our Lady and Saint Joseph how to grow as a human being. Out of respect for the independence of Jesus’ human nature and human free will, God does not force the divine nature upon the human part of Christ. Rather He grew like we all do, learning from His parents and the community around Him. He learned both what to do and what not to do.

Welcome Mary | The Now Word

Liturgically we are in the last weeks of the pregnancy of Our Blessed Lady. She and Joseph are going to embark on the long walk to Bethlehem. That is a long walk, which could take up to ten days to finish. Our Christmas Fast has been in place for nine days: 31 to go. We are asked to do penances, to abstain from certain foods, in order to cleanse our souls and prepare for the Birth of the Lord. Each of us has our own things to work on, but let me suggest that it would be a good idea to ask Saint Joseph and the Mother of God to intercede for us before God’s throne and flood us in particular with the grace of compassion, and with the grace to be free of any and all prejudice. We live in the richest, most powerful country ever seen in human history, but also in a country afflicted by racism and where it is almost impossible to have a calm conversation about politics. Catholics are meant to be a people constantly going through spiritual renewal, constantly learning more about both God and themselves. Catholics are meant to be people who will defend the human rights of any living person, born or unborn, sick or healthy. We are supposed to be a Church which encourages all the living to live fully, in the embrace of the Holy Spirit.

I am a dwelling place for God. This is a challenge, to believe and accept that God lives in us. For the rest of the Christmas Fast, let us strive to be more aware of this reality of God living in us and the people around us, old and young, relatives and strangers, born and unborn. Let us be more aware of the unity we have with others instead of the differences. Above all, let us work at preparing our hearts and homes to really welcome the Christ Child in a new way this year, different from any other year.

Christ is among us.

What was it like to be pregnant with the Savior? | The New Theological Movement

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