Walk into most any Catholic church and you can feel the holiness. You just know this church is a building whose purpose is very different than any other building around town. The smell of incense, the sight of the Crucifix and the knowledge that the Real Presence rests in the Tabernacle adds to our sense of sanctity within these walls. It is no less a House of Prayer than the Temple was in our Lords time, when fashioning a whip of cords, Jesus sought to drive out the sinfulness that was occurring in His Father's house.
Most people recognize this holiness, this sanctity that is embodied in a Catholic church and as such, speak in a whisper, in hushed voices, respecting those in the pews that are in prayer to the One in the Tabernacle. No matter if the church is large or small, modern or Gothic in style, it is the house of God, and most times, it is treated as such.
If we were to walk into a Catholic church and discovered a couple having sex in front of the Tabernacle or on the alter we would be horrified. We would be just as equally horrified if during a homily we heard outright lies from the lips of a priest denying the existence of God and declaring that scripture is a man-made story to control the common folk, and those sitting in the pews nodding in agreement. What would be our reaction if entering a church we discover people drinking til drunk and staggering around uncontrollably , as vile comments spew from their lips with no regard to anyone around them, or bands of thieves roaming the pews and stealing from those sitting there?
No less horrified would we be if we saw people brandishing a gun, or knife and indiscriminately killing those around them in church. What if...these things were common occurrences each and everyday, and knowing how wrong and sinful all these things are, we allow them to continue unabated, even justifying them to some degree? Would we turn a blind eye or would we, using our own whips, drive out the sinfulness that we saw happening in the House of God?
It's easy to see the actions above as being scandalous, offensive and sinful if they happened in our parish churches, yet many of us do not seem to have the same reaction when we desecrate our very bodies which are Temples of God, the Holy Spirit, with our own sinful actions. St. Paul calls our bodies Temples of the Holy Spirit in 1Corinthians6 and prior to that he writes:
"9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:
neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. "
Every time we engage in the above sins, we do this within the Temple of God, our bodies. This Sunday's Gospel at Mass speaks to us not only of His "zeal for His Father's house", but also metaphorically of our own bodies, Temples of God. Every time we sin against our bodies we become the money changers, those selling oxen, ass and doves within the Temple. Jesus was angered by this and rightly so, and his reaction was to drive them all out violently. How much more anger would he reserve for those of us who desecrate His Father's house within our own bodies? Our bodies are no less holy than our churches yet we treat these temples, our bodies, with contempt. When we sin against our bodies, we fashion our own whips and drive out the Holy One from His own Temple.
We seem to think nothing of killing the unborn life, committing adultery, theft, lying, cheating and committing a host of other desecrations within His temple, our bodies, yet we would be shocked if it happened in our churches, God's tabernacles. Then let us be also shocked and horrified in the desecrations of our own bodies, tabernacles of his presence within us.
In baptism, Christ dwells and makes His home in us. Our souls contain the very image of God, and it is the soul that animates the body. We need to get back our sense of holiness and the sanctity of our bodies and to see them as the true Temples of the Holy Spirit that they are. Lent provides the perfect time to drive out all desecration and immorality from our temples, providing God with a true and holy Temple, worthy of the Creator. Let us also have a "zeal for His Father's house".