“You are the temple of the living God” 2Cor6:16
What person becomes frustrated and angered upon hearing about child abuse in the news? Picture now being graced with a beautiful daughter! The daughter is symbolic of your soul and you yourself are the temple in which the soul dwells. This sermon will look at why and how St. Paul uses the imagery of the temple in today’s epistle lesson. It will bring forth how Jesus Christ dwells within each of us and the pursuit of holiness in our lives.
In pagan cultures, temples were erected to different gods. As St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” Pagan worship led people to worship their passions. This form of spiritual life led to emptiness. This is why St. Peter said the following: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors.” 1PT1:18 Pagan worship still exists to this day and is prevalent in our society when we allow money, power and vainglory to dictate that worship. Thus the afflicted soul becomes abused, like a child is physically abused by someone by the passions of this life. By the work of Jesus Christ, to the glory of His Father and through the Holy Spirit, there is a temple that is full of life, abundant life: “Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.”PS73:10 This temple is each person who by being baptized, has received the Holy Spirit. This temple is each person who wishes to care for his or her daughter, that is to say the soul, by nourishing it and caring tenderly for it through deep and intimate prayer and by the grace of the life giving sacraments.
The Gospel of Luke is read beginning the Sunday after the Holy Cross through Christmas. It brought to our light today, in this first Sunday of Luke, the calling of the first of the disciples, Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus commands the four and tells them, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” In his sermon at the Mass held at Madison Square Gardens, Pope Francis commented on this very thing, that the disciples were to go forth and to meet people wherever they were: the infirmed, the sick, the down trodden, the sinner, the rich and the poor. This commission meant weathering the storms of life, forming relationships inspired by the Holy Spirit and bringing the message of salvation. When John the Baptist, who was imprisoned at the time and had a moment of doubt whether or not if Christ was the Messiah, sent his messengers to Jesus, and the Lord responded back to him, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”MT11:4-6 The active preaching and sharing of the Good News by Jesus and His disciples is to fill the temple of a person’s soul, which has been emptied by disappointment of ego, power and vainglory, with the everlasting and eternal presence of God’s spirit.
St. Paul concludes today’s epistle by saying the following, “make holiness perfect in the fear of God.”2Cor7:1 St. John Chrysostom commenting on this passage states the following, “Now by holiness here he means not chastity alone, but the freedom from every kind of sin, for he is holy that is pure. Now one will become pure, not if he be free from fornication only, but if from covetousness also, and envy, and pride, and vainglory, yea especially from vainglory which in everything indeed it behooves to avoid.” Thus the challenge is given by the great apostle Paul, and the journey begins for a Christian starting at the baptismal font to strive towards the perfection of holiness.
This sermon brought to light the imagery of the temple used by St. Paul in today’s epistle lesson. The believer also came to understand the commission of the Disciples of Christ to engage with people and share with them the message of salvation. One learns today also that the spiritual life of Christianity is based on perfecting holiness. In ending, St. Nektarios uplifts the Christian striving towards virtue with the following teaching. “The virtuous Christian is a magnificent sculpture, because he has been shaped in the image and likeness of his Creator…God has placed bliss within the hearts of virtuous Christians. He has made it their inalienable possession and has rendered it completely independent of and unaffected by any external surroundings. Nothing external can influence the blessed state found within the virtuous Christian.”
By Fr. John K. Lardas