Thursday, July 16, 2009

Something Greater Than the Temple Is Here

July 17, 2009

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

... The blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you. (Exodus 12:13)

I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord. (Psalms 116:13)

I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath. (Matthew 12:6-8)

Lord, thank You for inviting me to drink from the cup of salvation. I call on You to help me pass it on.

The best, most challenging homily I’ve ever heard was not delivered in a grand cathedral or even a humble parish, but at a retreat house chapel smaller than my apartment.

The Parish Council members and staff had been together for about seven hours. We’d broken bread together, we’d shared stories in small groups, and we’d heard two wonderful priests talk about the day’s readings. I can’t speak for the others, but I was feeling pretty fat and happy about being part of the parish leadership and about my intelligence and about my relationship with God.

The homily that evening changed everything for me.

After briefly thanking us all for the gifts we share to keep the parish going, the priest challenged us. What would you be doing if there wasn’t a church? he asked. What would you be doing if it was dangerous for two or more Christians to be seen together, let alone be attending a Mass? Church is more than the building or the institution, he said. "What are you doing to bring souls to the Kingdom?"

What are you doing to bring souls to the Kingdom?

It’s the same challenge Jesus throws down to the Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading. “Something greater than the temple is here,” he says when his disciples are criticized for picking grain on the Sabbath because they are hungry. “... The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

That homily nearly three years ago redefined what I thought being a Christian means. It showed me that being a Christian is greater than the temple, whether you define temple as the physical building or the rules and dogma and doctrine. It’s about being ready for flight like the Israelites in the first reading. For many of us, that flight doesn’t involve escape from physical danger. But it does involve escape from self-satisfaction and comfort and routine to do God’s work where He desires we do it. Each night, I ask myself, "What did you do today to bring souls to the Kingdom?" Some days, I’m happy with the answer; some days, I’m not. But asking the question keeps me focused on what Christ wants instead of what strokes my ego.

What are you doing to bring souls to the Kindgom?

Do something today to bring a soul to the Kingdom.