If we are not paying careful attention to what Saint Paul is saying in the second reading this Sunday, we could miss something quite dramatic. We are made in God’s image and likeness. And so we are temples of the Holy Spirit, because we are made that way. So we become, in a very real way, the vehicles for others to encounter the presence of God. If we live faithfully God’s commandments, then we show forth all that God can do for us in his goodness.
Going Behind the Word: In order to get a better sense of what Saint Paul is getting at in the second reading from this Sunday’s Mass, it is helpful to look at what he says before what we hear today. He goes to great lengths to contrast what it means to trust in human wisdom, the wisdom of this age, and the wisdom he preaches, which pierces God. Human wisdom causes us to love ourselves, but God’s wisdom invites us into the very depths of God’s being in love. Human wisdom may satisfy today, but God’s wisdom saves forever.
This Sunday’s gospel reading compares the disciple to salt. Why was salt such an effective image for a disciple? And why was salt a problem too? When we look at salt throughout the scriptures we see a variety of ways it is helpful. It protects, preserves, and strengthens an alliance. But it can also be a symptom of dying things. How do we know the difference? By listening carefully to the context we find it in.
Ever since the Temple was built, the importance was that God’s glory dwelt there. When Solomon first built the Temple, the glory of God was a dark cloud. And when Jesus is presented in the Temple, once more the glory of God fills it. But the best part — we are now temples of the Holy Spirit. The passion and suffering of Jesus means that we are Temples of the Holy Spirit. In this way, we receive the powerful light of Christ, and we use that light to invite others into a relationship with Jesus.
The prophet Isaiah is the key prophet of the Old Testament. Except for the Psalms, the prophet Isaiah is the longest book of the Old Testament. This year, all four of the first readings during the season of Advent, as well as many daily Mass readings come from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Orthodox Christian Church even celebrates Saint Isaiah on May 9. Why is he so important? First, his prophecy is grounded in a powerful relationship with God. The vision we hear described at the start of the book of Isaiah forms the foundation for everything he says. Second, he is able to read the signs of the times. While he was surely politically astute, his message is consistent. Trust in God. Third, Isaiah recognizes and challenges people to see that sincere faith in God impacts the behaviors of our lives. Lastly, it is easy to see in the prophecies of Isaiah a foreshadowing of the life of Jesus and the arrival of the Messiah.
In the first book of Samuel, chapter eight, the people ask Samuel for a king. Forgetting that God is their king, or perhaps more accurately rejecting the kingship of God, the people want to be just like other nations. Notice this. The people want to be just like other nations. The idea is one that remains common today. Sometimes we too find ourselves wanting to fit in, to be just like everyone else. Whether it is because we find ourselves unwilling to fin God because we sin, or simply do not desire to think about God, we can still experience a tension between God’s way and ours. This weekend by celebrating Christ the King we see how they coincide and complement each other.
Just who was the prophet Malachi? Truth is, we really do not know. But learning about the structure of the message of the book of the prophet Malachi can both warn us to be concerned with how well we follow God, and filled with hope about what God has in store for us.