Grace to you!
What is Jesus’ attitude to the temple (in our own case the church), a place set apart for God? And what should be our attitude?
Luke 19:45-46 gives us a perspective: “And he [Jesus] entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
You are probably familiar with the structure of the temple in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. The humongous architectural masterpiece situated on top of Mount Zion covered about thirty acres of land. Apart from the Holy of Holies at the center of the temple with high separating walls, where only the high priest could enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the other part of the temple (the temple precincts) has four courts – the court of priests, the court of Israelites, the court of women and the court of the gentiles, respectively.
The outermost court is the court of the gentiles where gentile converts to Judaism were allowed to worship. It is also at this court of the gentiles that animals (thousands of them) used for sacrifices at the temple were inspected and bought. No one was allowed to bring an uninspected animal for worship.
Because of the nature of the exchanges going on, the court of the gentiles, which was also part of the temple, was always noisy during temple worship. You can compare the commotion to a bazaar sales event. It was also at this court of the gentiles that Jesus stood and cleansed the temple.
Jesus took the ownership of the temple personally, calling it “my house.” The outermost court, which was not even close to the Holy of Holies or the inner courts because there was a big wall separating them, was considered such by Jesus. This shows how important every aspect of the house of God is to the Lord.
What the temple in Jerusalem was to the Jews, is what the church is for us Christians. The church is set apart, consecrated, made holy for the Lord. God owns it. The community may have fundraised for it’s building and built it. The bishop may have blessed and dedicated it. Nonetheless, the church is dedicated to God. It is God’s special and sacred “living room.”
One may say, but God is everywhere. Certainly, but Jesus shows us that the place set apart for worship is unique. He takes it personally. Consider a church where the Lord is present in the Most Blessed Sacrament or during the Eucharistic Celebration; it changes the whole dynamics.
The church isn’t a theater or a showroom or even a state of the art auditorium. The church is set apart and the architecture is set apart too.
The Lord tells us the essence of having a church. It is a house of prayer for all people. It is a sacred place where anyone can come and pray. As a community of faith, the church is a sacred space for our community prayer and sacred worship of the Holy God.
Hence, our attitude in church should be different from our attitude elsewhere, shouldn’t it? Ranging from dress code to exchanging pleasantries, comportment, etc., shouldn’t we show more reverence when we are in the house of God?
The house of prayer for all should be a safe, quiet place where anytime it is open, anyone could come in and not be distracted by loud jokes, immodest dressing, and free-for-all socializing, which we see in many churches these days.
It is wonderful to come in silently into a church and feel the peace inside and have time to commune with God. It is beautiful to see those icons, stained glass and the Tabernacle Light, reminding us Jesus is here. It’s actually different to perceive the peace that God brings when we seat, stand, kneel or prostrate quietly in God’s house, contemplating his glory.
May God give us the grace to show more reverence when we are in the church and during worship. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.