Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
“When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” … This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” (Lk. 21:5-19)
We all have temples. What are the temples in your life? Be it our place of worship, an object, our home, our family, or even our bodies. It could be an ideology that we hold fast to, that is contrary to God’s plan. When our temples fall we look for scapegoats, someone to blame or demonize. Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals, straight or gay, a person of color or white. We look for some or a group who does not think, act, or believe as we do to blame. We fail to see the spiritual bankruptcy of hypocrisy, oppression, or the rejection of the Messiah and the Gospel. Security, peace, and diplomacy have given way to fear, violence, and terrorism. Some people will give up and walk away in despair. All is lost and the situation is hopeless. Some become angry, resentful, and fight back. Others will say this is God’s will or maybe even God’s punishment. Many will look for easy answers, quick fixes, something that will prop up the old structures and ways of doing things.
In our information age, there are many who speak in extreme words, exaggerating the truth and telling the news in alarming and unsettling ways. Unlike Jesus, they do not offer truth or life.
Jesus’ response is just the opposite. Be still, be quiet, and do not be led astray. Do not allow your life to be controlled or determined by fear. Do not listen to the many voices that would cause you to run and go after them. Endure. Be faithful. Persevere here and now. Jesus is calling us to be present and faithful in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. If we cannot find God, here in our present circumstances, even in the midst of our temple ruins, we will find God nowhere.
As Black people, we know about endurance. By the endurance passed on throughout the ages, we gain our lives and our souls. We are to remain fully present, and faithful, no matter how uncomfortable life may be. In doing so, we discover that God has always been with us, the changes, chances, and chaos of life, in the pain, loss and disappointment, in the destruction of our temples.
Endurance, perseverance, and stability are ways in which we offer God the fallen stones of our temples. Stone by stone God rebuilds our lives. Stone by stone God restores the beauty of our life and world. Stone by stone a new temple arises from the rubble. Stone by stone we become the temple of God. We no longer have temples. We no longer need them. We are the temple.
We can tell the story of the day our temple was destroyed. Too often, we believe and live as if that is the end of the story. If we run away, scapegoat, respond with anger, or try to put it back together like it used to be, it will be. It doesn’t have to be the end of the story. The greater story is how we discovered God in the temple ruins, and how, stone by stone, God rebuilt what we could not. It is the ongoing story of God recreating life out of loss and ruin, a story of God rejoicing and delighting in his people. That is the story that needs to be told. That is our opportunity to testify!
Author: Adrienne Curry, M. Div. Director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministries, Archdiocese of Baltimore, MD.