Grace to you!
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…” (Read the entire story in Luke 19:45-48). 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 “my house” 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 its 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 (Is 56:7; Mt 21:13; Lk 19:46). 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.
Have you ever gone inside a church when no one was there? You will feel the deep solitude while you seat or kneel in prayerful quiet before the Lord. It is a wonderful, healing and calming spiritual experience.
May God give us the grace to show more reverence when we are in the church and during worship. Amen May we reap from the blessings of solitude. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Week 33 Ordinary Time: Rev 10: 8-11; Lk 19:45-48]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.