by: Fr. Scott Karnik
Third Sunday of Lent Homily: March 4, 2018:
Jesus Christ gives us a stunning revelation in today’s gospel about the Temple. Jesus loves the Temple. That’s why He kicks out the merchants and money-changers. The stunning revelation for you and me is what Jesus says about the Temple. Jesus says: destroy it and in three days He will raise it up. Jesus is referring to His Own Body as the new Temple. This stunning revelation makes perfect sense if you remember last Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus is transfigured as He prays on the mountain. He is glorified. He is changed. In today’s gospel, Jesus purifies the Temple. 40 years later, Roman legions will destroy it. It remains destroyed today. So therefore, the Temple, as a center of worship and sacrifice is destroyed. The Temple, as a site of God’s abiding presence, is destroyed. The Temple, as a visible sign of God’s faithfulness, is destroyed. The Temple, as a visible expression of all three of these major points, is replaced by the Risen Body of Jesus Christ. Today’s gospel reveals to us that Jesus’s body will be transfigured into the new Temple.
This New Temple of Jesus Christ is the center of our worship. It is Church. It is a new worship society that replaces worship in the Temple. Our love, our salvation, our values, our very existence, spiritual and physical, are all grounded in a Person, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Jesus Christ will also be transfigured into His Church. This Church, the only one He established, is the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church is where Jesus Christ dwells in the midst of His People. Jesus’s Body in the Church centralizes our worship of Him. We offer ourselves to Jesus in this Church. We worship Jesus Christ here in this Church. We become part of His Body in this Church. Coming to this Church to offer ourselves, our love, our fidelity, and our worship to Jesus is very inclusive. We are drawn to this by Jesus Himself. We are drawn to Jesus Christ the Person. We are drawn to Him because of our love for Him. It is Jesus Christ Himself who is the center of our worship. Those who refuse to come here exclude themselves. They, themselves, do something that is very exclusionary. They reject coming here to worship Jesus by their own choice. They say they don’t get anything out of it. They say that they can worship Jesus anywhere. We come here to receive Jesus’s forgiveness of our sins and Jesus’s salvation. We come here to safeguard the purity of our faith in Jesus. The Church can never live together with idolatry of any kind.
St. John also writes in his Gospel that, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14). So Jesus will also transfigure Himself into Eucharist. It is more accurate to say that Jesus transfigures the Bread and the Wine into His Own Body and Blood. Again, in this Church, Jesus Christ is the center of our worship. Jesus Christ is present in this Church. Jesus’s Real Presence is in the Eucharist. He is present in the in-dwelling Spirit of this Church. The Church is the place of God’s presence. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and unity of this Church.
Jesus Christ is greater than the Temple. Jesus Christ supersedes the Temple. So, what should we know? That Jesus Christ is the absolute center of worship here in this Church. We come here to worship Jesus and to be transfigured into likenesses of Him, to offer ourselves to Him, and to be saved by Him. What should we do? Continue our Lenten observances because we know who this Jesus is. Jesus is God’s Son and the New Temple. Continuing our Lenten observances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving brings us to Jesus. Continue to pray, go to Confession, attend Mass, receive Jesus in the Eucharist, become likenesses of Jesus. Why should we care? Because considering all this means that Jesus Christ, in this Church, is everything. That is exactly who Jesus is and who Jesus wants to be for you and for me.