King Solomon fulfilled a dream that his father King David had- building the Lord a magnificent temple that would become the center of Israelite culture. Solomon spared no expense and the temple he built was breathtaking to behold.
In today’s account from the Book of Kings, Solomon considers the wonders of his great temple, appreciating its beauty, but also recognizing that human beings need temples, God does not.
Temples help us to understand what our relationship with God is all about. At their best, they will tell us the story of who God reveals himself to be and what he asks us to do. Faith is not just expressed in words, in texts or in documents, or manifested only in ideas or feelings, but it is meant to be displayed to us in art and in architecture, and through these forms we come to know what it is that we believe about God and why.
God blesses the efforts of humanity to praise him with works of beauty, seeing in them genuine acts of love and service, but he does not need what we create to be who he is. Our prayers, our praise, our worship does not make God greater than he already is. We need God to be who we are. God does not need us.
Understanding this is helpful lest we come to think that our efforts to honor God become something dark and twisted- attempts to control or manipulate God, rather than to know, love and to serve him.
The Church worships in sacred spaces that are properly understood as temple. The worship of the Church is temple worship and our sanctuaries are sacred to us, not simply because they are grand and magnificently decorated, but because within them the divine life and presence of the Lord Jesus dwells and invites us to communion with him.
Our temples are important and through their beauty tell us the great story of our faith in Christ. Everything in our temples is supposed to direct our attention towards God in Christ, who he is, what he has done for us, and what he wants us to do. The Church’s temples are for Christ, about Christ, and because of Christ and this is why the focal point, the sacred center, is the Eucharistic Mystery, the Altar where this Holy Mystery is offered and the Tabernacle where this Holy Mystery endures.
It is from the Altar that the Lord Jesus gives his divine life to us and it is from the Tabernacle that he manifests to us that his divine life is always present to his Church as a source of solace for the sick and as a privileged encounter with the presence of Christ, who sustains us in our prayer and who is worthy of our adoration.
In his Gospel Christ the Lord is in conflict with the Pharisees.
The precise nature of this conflict is complicated, and the Gospel tries to help us understand the reasons that Christ and the Pharisees are at odds with one another. The argument seems to be about how the Law of Moses, which included rather stringent laws regarding ritual purity were meant to be appropriated by the people. The Pharisees seem to be rigorists in regards to these particular Laws, using their absolute adherence to them as a sign of personal piety. Christ seems to be saying that their rigorous interpretations of the ritual purity laws are distracting people from Laws of greater importance- the 10 Commandments and demands of charity, mercy and love of God and neighbor.
Piety is a good thing. Religious practices help us to grow in relationship with the Lord. But if our piety and religious practices become a means, as it seemed to for the Pharisees, of circumventing our responsibility to live in accord with God’s commandments, or used as a way of evading the demand of love and mercy, then our piety and religious practices have been corrupted. Once corrupted, they cease to bear spiritual fruit, and for ourselves and to others, they become blocks that prevent access to Christ rather than bridges that lead people to him.
Christ fears that this corruption has overtaken the Pharisees and as such he calls them to conversion.
Christ calls all of us to conversion as well.