In our second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we participate in one of the most amazing mysteries of the Christian life: that we are temples of God!
For St. Paul, the great Temple in Jerusalem was the heart of his life, and to protect it was one of the reasons why he so arduously persecuted the followers of the Lord Jesus. When he became a follower of the King of Kings after his encounter on the Damascus road, he experienced for himself this amazing gift—that God Himself no longer dwelt simply in the great Temple of Jerusalem, but rather now delighted to dwell in the human heart! We, of course, have grown up hearing this, how we are indwelt by the Triune God at the moment of our Baptism. Unfortunately, sometimes being so familiar with these great truths can render them almost ‘ho hum’ to us. That could never have been the case with St. Paul. He had worshipped in the great Temple, as close to the Holy of Holies as he was allowed to be, but always outside of it, not having the great honor of being able to enter into it—an honor reserved for the high priest alone, and only rarely at that. St. Paul would have worshipped the Holy One of Israel, coming as close as he could, but still always conscious of the distance that separated him from Him. Then he meets the Lord Jesus and gradually becomes aware of this most incredible gift, that the Holy One Whose presence he could not enter, had Himself, through the actions of the Son, closed the gap and come to him, and now actually dwells in his heart! It would certainly be worth reflecting on this mystery, that its grandeur might not be lost on us.
But this indwelling gift should not be seen simply as a static reality. St. Paul points out that the Spirit of God dwells in that Temple of our hearts. This is an important concept in his letter to the Corinthians, and there he gives us a clear description of how that very presence of God can be facilitated by our cooperation. He does this in his description of the result of the use of the gift of tongues by us. He notes: “He who speaks in tongues edifies himself.” (I Cor. 14:4). The word translated “edifies” there is a very special word. It literally means “to build a house,” but the word “house” there, has a long history in the Scriptures of referring to a particular House, the House of God. What St. Paul is literally saying is that when a person speaks in tongues, he or she is building the Temple of God within them. When we pray in tongues we, in some mysterious way, actually enhance that gift of His Presence within us. You might say that it is one way of opening the door that St. John refers to in Revelation 3:20. The King comes in as we cooperate with His grace by building that interior temple in our hearts. Here we cooperate with that gift, not on our own power, but by utilizing the supernatural gift that He Himself has given to us—the gift of tongues.
This is a gift for all, as St. Paul points out in the very next verse: “I want you all to speak in tongues….” The great jubilee of the Catholic charismatic renewal that we are celebrating this weekend is, in a very particular way, about the renewal of this gift among the Catholic faithful, a gift that we are free to exercise whenever we like, and indeed, to listen to St. Paul, are encouraged to use constantly, e.g. Ephesians 6:18: “Pray at all times in the Spirit.” There is a great grace resting on this weekend, a grace to experience this gift more profoundly, whether for the first time or the thousandth time. This gift for all, that helps us to encounter more deeply the Holy One Who loves us first. Whether we regularly use this gift or have never used it before, now is the time to say “yes” to the King of Kings—we want all He has for us, we want to walk in the fullness of this Spirit-filled life that the last several Popes have described as so crucial to the Church. The King is inviting us, let us open our hearts and ask for more! — Fr. Ed