It is an amazing story to hear that this fragile body with which we walk around - which is often beaten down with weariness, sickness and years, and which holds together my contradictions and yours - is a holy temple within which God takes residence.
I remember the story about David asking to build a temple to honor God. But God would have none of that. God rather chose Solomon to build a temple. That temple was so beautiful that many, many people traveled from far and near to simply behold its beauty and to worship the creator God in it.
All through human history, many are the temples that have been built to honor and worship the divine. Think about the Aztec temples in Mexico. Think about the ancient Incan temples in Peru. Think about the ancient Egyptian temples, where rituals were performed for different gods. Many are the shrines in some traditional societies are devoted to the divine. There’s a story of St. Paul on one of his missionary trips to Athens; upon coming across shrines scattered all over the city, and some which were devoted to unknown gods, Paul was able to convince some of the residents that the gods whom they did not know, and to which they had built those shrines, was the God he proclaimed.
As beautiful as these temples may have been, Paul helps us to reinterpret the place of the human body. Genesis assures us that in the image of God we were created, but it was Paul who fleshed out the idea of our divine image and went as far as to construct the notion that the human body is the temple of God. This new idea was a clear departure from what our perception of the human body has been. The human body is sacred.
I reflect on the idea of the temple, and look no further than my own heart - the seat of the temple within me, God’s holy temple. If a person doesn’t know which direction to face when praying, or if that person has exhausted all the six different directions to which he or she can face - namely, up, down, left, right, forward or backward - let that person look inward toward the heart, the sacred space within each of us.
During this season of Lent, and most especially this past week, I have reflected on the life of three people who committed suicide - two students from Florida who died as a result of survivor guilt, and a parent who lost a child during the Sandy Hook shooting. I can never put myself in their shoes to think for a moment what it means to deal with what they were dealing with, nor can I ever imagine what it means when you believe you have exhausted all your options. I pray for the repose of their souls, and as I turn to look inward, I ask myself the question, "Have I exhausted all my options?" And I ask you, my beloved friend, "Have you exhausted all your options?"
Humans have been religious since the day we became aware of ourselves. Religion is one of the experiences which makes us truly human. I embrace Paul’s conception of you and I as being God’s holy temple with absolute conviction that even when I exhaust all my options, I can look within me, my heart, the seat of God’s presence, the sacred space within myself and my inner temple. A place where I can vouch for God’s redeeming presence.
The point is, I look inward not because of self-sufficiency, but because that is the only place that at every moment and time I acknowledge my dependence and over-reliance on God. That is the moment when I need God the most. That is the moment when I kneel before my heart, as big an ocean as the size of my heart may be, and I try to find myself in its hidden depths, and then reach out to God to come in and save me - even from myself. St. Augustine once wrote that, “The house of my soul is too small for you to enter, O God; make it more spacious by your coming.” God comes to us, and dwells within us. There’s a place in our being in which only God can dwell, and where we dwell in God. It is the place where we meet God, and dissolve into God’s being as God’s walking holy temples.
I know You (God) are standing at the door. I hear You (God) knocking at the door, the door to my heart, the temple where your glory dwells. May You come in and dwell with me, just so I may not feel that I have exhausted all my options.