This is my homily for Sunday 14 November 2010, for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.
[__01__] What is a stone?
The British Empire, in the 19th century, devised a system of weights and measures that was in place until 1959. Then, in 1959, the metric system was adopted.
However, in the U.K., we still may hear reference to weight measured in stone.
Rather than 140 pounds, we hear 10 stone. 1 stone equals 14 pounds.
Stone = weight. And, weight – in many instances – is what we use to measure value.
A heavier stone is usually more valuable. This is true whether the stone is marble or diamond.
On the other hand, we also place a high value on things because they are light – sports cars or cell phones.
In either case, “weight” = value. This is a measurement.
Jesus is well aware that the people of his day are taking measurements and making evaluations.
They take measurements from the sidewalk outside the Temple. They admire the stones, the “costly stones” and “votive offerings.”
Walking down the street in Jerusalem outside the Temple, the Lord hears these visitors paying homage (respect) to the external aspects of “costly stones” and “votive offerings.”
The Lord is telling us that the external – while costly - has a limited life-span.
The Lord says: “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (cf. Luke 21:5-19)
Should they, then, put away their cameras? Or, rather, take more photos, capture it on film? In other words, if they take more, they would do what travelers-tourists naturally do everywhere to capture and remember the height of office buildings, museums, and cathedrals?
We take these photos to remember and measure. And, we are impressed with what we can see.
[__02__] On the other hand, in some cases, the “superficial” and the “surface” are very important. In other words, both facade and foundation count.
For example, to build the Temple, the original workers had to level the ground. This labor -- at the “superficial” or “surface” level -- is important to success.
Also, some of the surface adornments identify the Temple and Jewish faith. Do not the “costly stones” and “votive offerings” reflect the presence of God inside? For example, “votive offerings” mean “sacrificial offerings.” The people sacrifice in the Temple for what God has given them in the Temple of their own lives.
And, the stones – heavy and valuable (syn for “valuable”! ! ! ) – reflect the infinite value of God’s Presence inside the Temple.
[__03__] In the Gospel, we might gain the impression that Christ was indifferent to the Temple. However, we know that the Lord observed his Jewish faith in visits to the Temple. And, he cared enough about the Temple to drive out the money changers (cf. John 2:_, et al). He cares about not only worship itself, but the preparation for worship, and the appearance of it.
Our own Holy Communion is a New Passover, reflecting the historic sacrifices of the Temple. However, this New Passover is also an action of the Holy Spirit, giving us a presence more than we can perceive with our five senses.
We cannot weigh or measure this presence in stones or money.
And, we are called to remember the same in our view of another person. Sometimes, we are tempted to make a person an object of measurement. If he or she measures up, good. If not, bad.
We may wonder – what costly stone have you given me or votive offering have you done for me lately?
In my relationship with others, we may expect to be pleased and affirmed. In Christ’s view, however, we are called to see that the facade identifies where the Temple is. But, the facade does not identify what the Temple is.
[__04__] We have other Temples beside the Temple of Jerusalem or the New Temples of our own churches. The new Temple is Christ’s body and blood. And, as followers, we also make up the new Temple, the new building.
As Paul writes in the New Testament:
“Your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit which we have from God.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
So – what is our view of this new Temple?
As Christ’s followers, we believe that God’s presence is known in a special way through the Blessed Sacrament, through the Holy Eucharist. However, God is also present in our hearts and in the heart of another person.
God is not confined to his Temple regardless of the integrity of its construction.
What about the integrity of your construction and my construction? What is our view of the human body suffering or aging?
Do we see an inherent value in the person who has difficulty walking or speaking?
Consider the outpouring of support for Rutgers University football player, Eric LeGrand, a player who suffered a devastating neck injury a few weeks ago.
This young man’s life is changed forever. What his teammates and coaches demonstrate, however, is a desire to support him as a teammate. And,they are doing whatever they can to level the ground for him, to level the new playing field for him.
And, we have seen – on the news and at football games – the visible desire to inform
Eric that he remains a member of the team.
Wearing his number, 52, is one such outward sign.
[__05___] “Outward signs were important in the Jersualem Temple; they are also important in the New Temple.”
Some of these outward signs will take considerable effort – over many years.
And, by visiting Eric in the hospital or at home, his family and friends tell the world that Eric – as human being – is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).
Sometimes, we may think that our efforts of caregiving do not matter. We may feel discouraged because we have not been able to re-build the foundation yet.
Just as the crowd asks in the Gospel today, we wonder, “when?” and “how will this happen?”
Jerome Biblical Commentary, on Luke: “what Luke is insisting on .... is Christians must not expect a proximate and definite date for the Second Coming or the end of the Temple.”
“Christians must adjust to a long period of waiting and persecution. In doing so, they are following the sorrowful way of the Cross, taken by Jesus to arrive at glory.”
Our lives are not measured stones or ounces or abilities. They are measured in our ability to love and see beyond the facade.