“You are a temple of God.”
That’s what St. Paul tells us in our second reading this weekend: A Temple of God! With the Spirit of God dwelling in you! That’s what you are!
What always happens inside a Temple?
Simply put… Temples are places where sacrifice is to be offered.
So if you are a Temple, that means, that you’re created to be a place of sacrifice. Your heart is supposed to be an altar where sacrifice is offered.
But what does that mean? What exactly is “sacrifice?” This is important! Because if we get the meaning of sacrifice wrong, then we get the entire point of Christianity wrong.
Joseph Ratzinger was very concerned about this as well. Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, he pointed out that very often, we seem to have the idea that “sacrifice” is all about destruction — about the loss — of something precious to us.
We might think of some of the Old Testament sacrifices which involved the burning up goats and bulls. Or we might think of a more modern example.
I happen to be a big hockey fan. It’s not uncommon to hear the announcers say stuff like “WOW…that guy just sacrificed his body to stop that puck!” Again, we might come away thinking that the “sacrifice” is somehow in the destruction — in the toothless smile of a hockey player.
But no… as Ratzinger points out: “Destruction does not honor God.”
So what does honor God? What, then, is the true heart of sacrifice?
Ratzinger answers the question this way:
Sacrifice consists “not in destruction, but in the transformation of man — In the fact that he becomes himself conformed to God.”
In other words: To sacrifice… is to be made holy.
To sacrifice is to “be holy as God is holy.” “To be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect!”
If you break down the very word “sacrifice,” we find this to be true. The word “Sacrifice” comes from combining two Latin words — “Sacrum” and “facere.” Sacrum, meaning “holy” and “facere” meaning “to make.”
Put them together, and what do you have?
“To make holy.”
To sacrifice, therefore, means “to make holy.”
Holiness. To be like God. To love like God loves. That’s what sacrifice consists of!
The Catechism teaches us that “every action [we do,] so as to cling to God in communion of holiness… is a true sacrifice.”
But we fear sacrifice don’t we? We think that if we decide to give our entire life to the Lord — if we go to Mass EVERY Sunday… if we obey ALL the Church’s teachings… if we make time to pray EVERY day… then there won’t be much of anything left for us. We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that God just wants to take our life away from us. To consume it. Burn it all up! Drain it to the last drop! Milk it for all its worth!
And so God can quickly become a great burden to us.
But that’s not what sacrifice is about! Sacrifice is not about the destruction of our life. It’s about being made holy. It’s about truly becoming a Temple of the Holy Spirit.
If we buy into that, then we can give ourselves away freely and completely without fear and mistrust. We can go two miles, when someone asks for one. We can find courage to turn the other cheek rather than retaliate.
We can even begin to love our enemies. …Which is precisely what Jesus did on the Cross, right? — The Cross is the only perfect Sacrifice. He died not only for his friends and relatives, not only for those who happened to agree with him — but most especially for his enemies.
It’s like that Super Bowl ad that showed pictures of all those people screaming and yelling at one another — The message was profoundly true: “Jesus loved the people we hate.”
But what holds us back from being Temples? From being places of sacrifice… of “being holy as God is holy?”
I was listening to a talk by Dr. Mary Healy recently, and she said that one of the greatest sicknesses of our time is the sickness of narcissism.
Narcissism makes true sacrifice impossible, because it is ultimately the worship of the self. It’s a clinging to oneself.
Point blank: We live in a culture of “me.” Everything revolves around “me.” “My” concerns are primary. “My” ideas are the only ones that really matter. You have to respect and bow down to “my” opinion… you have to attend to “my” needs, and respect “me” and “my” story. “My” truth.
Dr. Healy went on to say that because we live in such a narcissistic, “me-centered” culture — it’s no surprise that we have a tragic “pandemic of broken relationships! Broken families. Broken marriages.” And this, she says “leads to broken hearts, which leads to broken lives. Which leads to depression, addiction, suicide, and all the other symptoms of the culture of death.”
In the end, narcissism — not self-sacrifice — leads to self-destruction. Worshipping self leads to our own ruin.
And so we find, in the end, that Jesus’ old saying turns out to be true: “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Here’s the beautiful reality: When we make a true sacrifice of our life to God, when we give it away freely… it doesn’t destroy our life.
It actually saves it.
A young man who sacrifices the great good of marriage and family to become a priest doesn’t destroy or ruin his life — Rather, he himself becomes a living gift for the entire Church. A gift to bring about holiness in the lives of the laity!
Young couples who sacrifice instant pleasure and wait until marriage …Parents who choose to remain open to life… families who seek to live out their identity as the domestic church, and who make incredible sacrifices to be different than the world around them — they aren’t “destroying” their lives… they aren’t “ruining” their lives. They are giving THEMSELVES away as a gift, so that they and their children can flourish and become more and more holy!
“You are a temple of God.”
You were created to be a place of total self-sacrifice. And sacrifice means “to make holy.”
And so we come to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
All of the Eucharistic prayers — prayers of sacrifice — are chock full of direct references to this “making holy.”
The priest, standing at the altar of sacrifice, prays these words over the bread and wine: “Make holy therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” And again: “By the same Spirit, make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration, that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.” And once more: “Be pleased, O God, we pray, to bless, acknowledge, and approve this offering in every respect, make it spiritual and acceptable…” — in other words: “Make it holy.”
Make it a Sacrifice.
Make this simple bread and ordinary wine into THE perfect Sacrifice of Jesus’ Body and Blood. The same Sacrifice He offered on the Cross 2,000 years ago — Make THAT Sacrifice present right here. Bring THAT holiness here, on THIS altar.
Make us holy, by our full participation in His offering, His Life, His Death, His Resurrection, revealed in this Sacrifice of the Mass.
Make us holy as You are holy Lord!
Father, make us perfect as you are perfect.
Receive this sacrifice of our worship.