OCTOBER 25, 2008- DEDICATION OF CATHEDRAL: EZ 43:1-7; JOHN 4:1924
GOD IS SPIRIT, AND THOSE WHO WORSHIP HIM MUST WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH. The temple in Jerusalem, built as a response to the divine revelation made to David that commissioned his son Solomon as its builder, was the object of Ezechiel’s vision, as we have just heard in today’s first reading. The prophet saw the glory of God in the form of a brilliant light and heard his coming as a frightening roar. Ezechiel was overpowered by the vision and fell helpless to the ground, only to be revived and carried by the Spirit into the inner court where he saw that the glory of God filled the temple. The veneration given the temple was directed to the God whose presence sanctified the whole edifice.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem and visited the temple, he was indignant at the atmosphere created by the buying and selling of various animals needed for the sacrifices offered there. He was not one passively to accept this state of affairs; he vigorously drove out the merchants with an improvised whip. When questioned as to the meaning of his actions in a hostile manner, he challenged his critics with a statement that his disciples were able rightly to understand only after his resurrection: “Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up again (John 2:19). In the Gospel we have just heard he implicitly develops further his teaching concerning the temple and its services by indicating that it is the spirit that alone offers acceptable worship to God, who himself is Spirit. With these words he advances and clarified the concept of God by clarifying the impressions given by many passages of the Hebrew writings that speak of God in anthropomorphic terms, as if he found pleasure in the sweet odors of incense sprinkled on the altar. Rather, he affirms here, it is the dispositions of the heart that alone are acceptable to him. The temple and its altar thus are declared by the Lord to be symbols of the inner self; he implies that the true abode of God who is pure spirit is the heart of the worshipper.
Later on, Saint Paul was to make this teaching explicit as he wrote to the Corinthians: “Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
We are commemorating today the consecration of the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Rochester, a feast celebrated only in our diocese. The texts we have heard and expounded on tell us that the object of our honor takes its full meaning, not as a structure made by human hands but from the indwelling of the God of glory who gathers his people in its space, to acknowledge his majesty and glory. More, this temple symbolizes the heart of each of us, for it is there that God himself takes up his abode if we welcome him by our loving faith and offer him the service of our bodies by our manner of living. The mystery of God’s loving presence within us sanctifies our very bodies. The Eucharist we receive at this altar is gift assuring us that God desires to dwell with us so as to unite us to himself by giving us his own son, because he loves us._
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger