Saturday, January 08, 2011

Fr. Wells bulletin inserts


Today's Gospel lesson from Luke is the charming story of the boy Jesus being found in the Temple by his frantic parents. This incident has more than a few dimensions, which makes the passage highly preachable. But let us reflect on the place where this private epiphany occurred, the Temple. (It was a private sort of manifestation, since only Mary, Joseph, and the Temple personnel were included.) The Temple was the most appropriate place for the boy Jesus, in whom we see "the strength of infant weakness, when the eternal is so young," making His first claim of deity: "I must be about my Father's business."

In Luke's Gospel the Temple looms over the landscape. The very first episode in the opening chapter, takes place there, when an angel announced to the elderly priest Zechariah that he was about to have a son. In the final chapter, the disciples after the Ascension "were continually in the Temple blessing God."

In the opening chapters, we read the incident, told only by Luke, in which Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple, on the 40th day of his earthly life, "to present Him to the Lord" and to purify His mother. There He was acclaimed and worshiped by old Simeon and Anna, who represent the faithful remnant ("a remnant shall return!") predicted by Isaiah.

The Temple again became significant in the final chapters. The Temple is the real destination of the Triumphal Entry. After Jesus wept over the entire city of Jerusalem, it was the Temple which received His cleansing and judgment. We must be quick to say that Jesus did not despise or condemn the Temple ("my Father's house"); His cleansing was an act of old Israelite piety. The place where He had enthralled the teachers in His boyhood became the place of His final teaching in Holy Week.

And so we read as today's Epistle, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, which is your reasonable service." While the first reading seems to be unrelated to the second, we may grasp the continuity in words like sacrifice and service. These are Temple words, the language of liturgy and worship. The Temple where Jesus worshiped and taught in His earthly ministry has long been destroyed. But now we, whom Peter calls "living stones," are God's new and greater temple, in Paul's words, "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." We are "an holy temple, an habitation of God through the Spirit."

Christ's epiphany and self-revelation in this world began at His birth and continues to this very hour, taking place right here, in our temple. As He asked questions of the teacher of the Law, surely He will have some questions for us.

As He cleansed the Temple long ago, we pray that He will cleanse us as well.


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