Bottom line: With a tsunami coming, we must put out to the deep waters. Come to Jesus and his Body, the Church.
This Sunday Jesus has some bad news. It's not all bad, but let's start with the bad news. Jesus speaks about a coming disaster, a disaster that has implications for us today: the destruction of the Temple.
In his Catholicism video series, Fr. Bob Barron tries to bring home what the Temple meant to people of that time. "In an American context," Fr. Barron says, "we'd have to imagine a violation of some combination of the National Cathedral, the Lincoln Center and the White House." But it was even more personal than that. For a first century Jew, the Temple was his beloved. To destroy the Temple would be to destroy him.
But the destruction of the Temple did take place, as Jesus predicted. In 70 A.D. the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem and eventually the people inside run out of food. The historian Josephus describes the horror as people even resort to cannibalism.* Finally, the army of Titus breaches the walls, sets fire to the city and - what was most terrible - enter the inner sanctuary of the Temple and loot the Holy of Holies.
Could something so terrible happen today? Please God, no, but we do see signs things are getting worse in our world, in our American society - and in our families. We have come to accept evils that we could barely imagine a few decades ago. And let's be honest - some who are listening to me, may be caught in a downward spiral. G.K. Chesterton said, "Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down."
We fool ourselves thinking we can bracket evil. I might think, for example that I can limit my bad temper to occasional road rage. It won't work. My uncontrolled anger will affect other relationships. Evil seeps through everything. At first it may not seem so. People say things like, "Well, the sky hasn't fallen. Everything will continue like before." But - as was the case with the destruction of the Temple - there comes the moment of no return. It is like the tectonic plates under the ocean bed slowing reaching the breaking point. As Jesus tells us today, it would be naive to think that no disaster could come upon us. Unless we radically repent, a tsunami will overwhelm us.
We need to individually repent, but our society as a whole does not show signs of repentance. The question, then, is: what can we do to prepare for a possible tsunami? Let me draw a lesson from one of the ship captains when that huge tsunami struck the Pacific rim. His boat, filled with passengers, was in a harbor. The warning came that a moving wall of water was on its way. The radio told people to seek high ground. But the ship captain took a different course. He put out to sea. The deep waters absorbed most of the shock. His ship and passengers survived. The great destruction took place in the shallow waters.**
There is a lesson here. With a tsunami coming, we need to put out to the deep waters. If we stay in the shallows, we will be washed away. I would now like to tell you where to find the deep waters.
At the beginning of the homily, I mentioned that the Gospel contains bad news - the imminent destruction of the Temple. It represents all the great disasters of human history - perhaps one looming for us. That is the bad news. Besides this bad news, the Gospel contains good news. Jesus speaks about the rebuilding of the temple - in three days. He means his body, his Risen Body. There we find the deep waters - a relationship with Jesus through his Church, his body. Don't be deceived. You cannot have a disembodied Jesus - a relationship with Jesus must include his body, the Church. St. Joan of Arc expressed it this way: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter."***
So come to the deep waters. Come to Jesus. Come to his Church. In a few moments we will have the First Scrutiny. It reminds us that the power of Jesus is greater than any spiritual or earthly power. We experience that power as we accompany those preparing for the Easter Sacrament - and renew our own baptism, especially in that "second baptism" - the Sacrament of Confession.
With a tsunami coming, we must put out to the deep waters. Come to Jesus and his Body, the Church.
*Jewish Wars: Seige of Jerusalem 70 A.D.
**Credit for this illustration goes to Fr. William Joenson, writing in The Magnificat Lenten Companion.
***Catechism 795: A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter."
For a wonderful exposition of our organic unity with Christ and each other, see Episode 6 of the Catholicism Series: "A Body Both Sufferring and Glorious: The Mystical Union of Christ and the Church."
From the Archives (Third Sunday of Lent, Year B)
Year A (RCIA):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Parish Picture Album
(Fr. Narciso Valencia's stay at St. Mary of the Valley)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
(new, professional website)
National Petition to Stop HHS Mandate - important updates
Conscience Protection - Bishops Vow to Fight Coercive HHS Mandate
From Cardinal Dolan: I Owe You an Update "We’d prefer to concentrate on the noble tasks of healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor, all now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church..."
Peter Schweizer on "Big Pharma’s Role in the Contraception Debate"
Instead of looking at the bedroom, follow the money to the corporate boardroom: Gardasil is produced by pharma giant Merck, whose chief lobbyist in Texas at the time had been Perry’s chief of staff. Merck was a campaign contributor, and had also made contributions to the Republican Governors Association while he headed that organization. Again, a corporation supports a politician who in turn issues a mandate that creates a bigger market and larger profits for its product.