To the Jews of Jesus’ time, the word “temple” referred to the House of Yahweh, the place where God dwells. To the Jews, God’s dwelling place was within the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary within their Temple. But what Paul is telling his readers, in his letter to the Corinthians, is that we are the House of Yahweh, the dwelling place of Almighty God! And if you stop and meditate on that statement, it is an incredibly sobering thought. God lives in you and God lives in me. Everywhere we go, God goes; everything we touch, God touches; and everything that touches you or me, touches God.
The Jews built the First Temple under the leadership of King Solomon almost 3,000 years ago. It stood for nearly 400 years till it was destroyed by the Babylonians. A second temple was built and it stood for nearly 600 years till it was destroyed by the Romans. To the Jews, this structure demanded not only purity of the men and materials used in its construction; it also required ritual purity for all those who were to enter it. Nothing impure was allowed to defile the House of Yahweh.
The Jewish Temple was the place where the people worshiped God and where the duties of the priests were performed. Knowing that our mortal bodies are now the House of Yahweh, we need to ask ourselves, am I giving proper respect to the place where God dwells? Do my words and actions give honor and glory to God? And am I carrying out the duties and responsibilities that have been given to me by God?
Just how does one take care of and give proper respect for the dwelling place of Almighty God. Thankfully, Sacred Scripture offers us many answers to that question.
For example, Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “And now brothers, I beg you, through the mercy of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2) Paul is reminding us to be ever mindful of God’s eternal presence within. We must never subject our mortal bodies to anything that would dishonor and degrade His Holy Name.
In the Old Testament the prophet Jeremiah records the following words of God for us. “Call to Me and I will answer you; I will tell you things great beyond the reach of your knowledge.” (Jeremiah 33:3) This is one of the many great promises that God gives us in His Word, the Holy Bible. God answers prayer. We can have confidence in knowing that God hears and answers all our prayers, even in seemingly impossible situations.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Hebrews, “Do not love money but be content with what you have, for God has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you’.” (Hebrews 13:5) We tend to equate our earthly security to material wealth and possessions. But we must never forget that it is “In Him that we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) God is always with us. We are never alone. We must learn to always have confidence in His abiding presence.
And lastly, Pope Francis, in speaking to the College of Cardinals, said, “Jesus asks those who would follow him to love those who do not deserve it, without expecting anything in return, and in this way to fill the emptiness present in human hearts, relationships, families, communities, and the entire world. Jesus did not come to teach us good manners, how to behave well at the table! To do that, he would not have had to come down from heaven and die on the Cross. Christ came to save us, to show us the way, the only way out of the quicksand of sin, and this way is mercy. To be a saint is not a luxury. It is necessary for the salvation of the world.” (Pope Francis, February 23, 2014)
Our mortal bodies are a Temple of God. We are, therefore, to treat this Temple with the proper respect that the House of Yahweh deserves. We must never subject this Temple to anything that would dishonor and degrade His Holy Name. We must never forget that God hears and answers all our prayers. We must have confidence in His abiding presence. And we are to manifest His presence to the world by loving our fellow man, even those who do not deserve it, without expecting anything in return. For the dwelling place of God would demand nothing less.