The Temple Is For People
At the dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem, King Solomon prayed to the Lord. He asked God to be always present in the temple for the sake of the covenant; thus, he would be available to people expressing their needs.
After a period of initial fervour, the teaching of the Pharisees began to imply that people were to be sacrificed for the sake of the Temple, that religious traditions (made by people and juridical) were more important than God’s laws, which are supposed to be interior to people and express a personal relationship. Jesus takes them to much task for it. For the Temple of the Lord is there for people, not people for the Temple.
1 Reading: 1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30
Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of the whole community of Israel, and stretching forth his hands toward heaven, he said, “LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below; you keep your covenant of mercy with your servants who are faithful to you with their whole heart. “Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built! Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O LORD, my God, and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant, utter before you this day. May your eyes watch night and day over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honoured; may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place. Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”
Responsorial psalm PS 84:3, 4, 5 and 10, 11
R. (2) How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God. R.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God! R.
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
O God, behold our shield,
and look upon the face of your anointed. R.
I had rather one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked. R.
Alleluia Psalm 119:36, 29b
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Incline my heart, O God, to your decrees;
and favor me with your law.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mark 7:1-13
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, Honour your father and your mother, and Whoever curses father or mother shall die. Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favour of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” Solomon stands in awesome wonder before God in today’s first reading. How could it be that the God whom the heavens cannot contain should dwell in a house built by human hands. This suggests how closely God abides with us.
Hate crimes sometimes take the form of burning churches. This is seen as particularly sacrilegious, because in every church God comes close to his people. As Christians we believe that God dwells in Jesus in a totally unique way. God is also believed to be present in his word, and therefore we surround the scriptures with special reverence. Christ is also present in the form of bread and wine, not only symbolically but really. This is the great sacrament of God’s love.
But it does not end there. Christ truly lives in the baptized believer. With Paul we can say, “And it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). As Christians we respect each other as human beings but also as living temples of God, vessels of Christ.
These are primary considerations of our faith. Unfortunately, like the people in today’s Gospel, we are preoccupied with secondary issues. Yet when all is said and done, this alone is necessary: to know God, and to know Jesus Christ, who was sent by God. And to serve him in humanity.
As grateful children of God, let us put our hearts in seeking in the commandments not our will but the will of God, so that we do not ask what God orders us to do but simply how we can respond to his love and show that love to the people around us. May God bless you all: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!