Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ezra 6:7-8.12b.14-20; Luke 8:19-21)
Contemporary Catholics flock to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The immense structure creates awe not just for its grandeur but for the faith it signifies. However, St. Peter’s is of lesser importance to Catholics than the Jerusalem Temple was to Old Testament Jews. The latter was univocally the “house of God.” Only in that Temple could Jews offer sacrifice to make up for their sins. For this reason the charge that Jesus would destroy the Temple was taken utmost seriousness. Today’s first reading speaks of the dedication of the second Temple in the sixth century before Christ.
The scribe Ezra records how the Temple was actually commissioned by Persian kings. He says it was built by donations from the people as well as with public funds. He also mentions the feast prepared for the Temple’s dedication. Four hundred lambs are slaughtered for the occasion. But this sacrifice pales in comparison to the preparations for the dedication of Solomon’s Temples. David’s son had 120,000 sheep slain for his Temple’s dedication. One factor is that people are poorer in Ezra’s time. Perhaps they have been humbled by the tragic immorality that led to the first Temple’s destruction.
Churches, temples, and mosques are the most fitting places to worship God. We should frequent them more often than to meet the weekly obligation. They do not have to be large or filled with expensive ornamentation although these features have some value. What is important is that we pray in these places fervently. We need God’s grace to follow Jesus’s way to God’s heavenly home.