My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as I said, at the beginning of the mass, I'm so happy as your papal nuncio to be with you this evening here in Paranaque, in your beautiful church for your parish Fiesta, here in St. Anthony of Padua, San Antonio de Padua. As we said at the beginning of mass we are celebrating, if I'm not mistaken, the 51st Parish Fiesta and the 16th Anniversary of the Solemn Dedication of this beautiful church.
Let us listen carefully to the words of the gospel that we heard this evening. Jesus goes into the temple. This was the temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish temple, in which they sacrifice animals to God. And He cleanses the temple and drives out the money changers. He's creating the temple pure and holy. He says, “Stop making my father's house a marketplace!” And his disciples recall the Words of Scripture, “Zeal for Your House will consume me.”
And then the Jews say, “What sign are you going to show for what you're doing?” And then Jesus says these words, and this is what I want to emphasize this evening. Jesus is in the temple, he says to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days, I will raise it up.” They say, “This temple has been under construction for 46 years, you're going to raise it up in three days?”
And then St. John, who writes the gospel tells us, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” This is very important for us. Because the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70. What we're reading in the Gospel tonight, took place in about the year 33. So about, say, 37 years after these words of Jesus, the Romans came and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. And now the only thing that remains and maybe some of you have been to Jerusalem is the Western Wall, a bit of the foundation of the old temple and with Jewish people pray very devoutly over the remains of the temple. Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple, but He makes a connection to a new temple. He was talking about the temple of His body.
So the temple that was once in Jerusalem, now is the temple of Jesus body. The temple that was one now becomes a temple that I will explain to you is really threefold.
First, the temple of Jesus body, the new temple of God. And each and every one of you, as we heard in the second reading, you are the temple of God, and the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Why are you the temple of God? Because you are part of Jesus, you are part of His body. You are the temple of God, because you have been baptized into His body. You are part of the body of Christ. He is the temple of God, and because He is the temple of God, you are the temple of God. His Spirit is in you. The Spirit of Jesus. The breath of Jesus. The life of Jesus comes into you at baptism, and makes you in your body, the temple of God, which must not be profaned. Which must be holy, kept holy.
Isn't this beautiful? In the old ritual of baptism, when the baby was baptized before the Second Vatican Council, the priest would breathe into the baby's face, would blow air into the baby's face indicating the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit of Jesus that comes into the baby through baptism making the little baby a temple of the Holy Spirit. We receive the breath of God, the life of God in the sacrament of baptism. And that life of God which makes us His temple, part of the temple, that is Jesus, is nourished and increased every time we receive the Holy Eucharist. As we heard and we sang in our hymn as we were coming into church this evening, we are the body of Christ because we receive the body of Christ. The same idea. We are the temple of Jesus, we are the body of Jesus, His spirit is in us.
And this is the dignity of us as Catholic Christians - to have this life in us, which is so precious, which we must preserve at all costs.
What is opposed to that life in us is what we call sin, right? You've all heard the word mortal sin. What does mortal mean? Deadly. Mortal sin kills that life in us. It's like acid rain - rains into our hearts and kills that divine life in us which needs to be replenished by the sacrament of confession. So all the sacraments of the church, everything the church does is to make us the temple of God. Make us in Jesus, the temple of God.
I said, I will explain three senses of the word "temple". Jesus is the temple of God, you are the temple of God. But tonight we celebrate another temple of God: this building, this church! This beautiful church, dedicated to San Antonio de Padua. This wonderful, wonder-working, miraculous saint, the saint of lost causes the saint who helps us find things when we lose them. We can always pray to St. Anthony and he will help us. He's helped me many times. St. Anthony's church here.
My friends, the word in English - church. The first meaning of Church is you and me, the temple of God. People who are baptized become the Church. And the building, this beautiful building with this beautiful floor, beautiful ceiling, wonderful altar, all of these, we call it the church. You give it the name church, because the Church is inside the building. You, me, we are the Church and the churches call for us. And when a church is dedicated as yours was 16 years ago, the church is sprinkled with holy water. Maybe some of you were here that day 16 years ago. I imagine some of you probably were here.
The church was sprinkled with holy water. The church was anointed with Chrism, which is the oil that we use for confirmation. Then the Eucharist was celebrated on that altar. Water, holy water. Chrism. Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist in this building. And today, we celebrate your parish fiesta. And we celebrate the people who have been here over these 51 years. All the children who received God's grace and God's life in baptism here in San Antonio de Padua. All the children who received their First Holy Communion here, all the marriages that took place here. All the confirmations. Maybe some priests, perhaps, celebrated their first mass at this altar as well, I don't know.
And then we think about the people whose funeral masses were taken or took place here. And from this church were taken to be buried somewhere. The church is our life. This building contains the life of God because it contains us, the children of God, the temple of God who has received His life.
So let's preserve that life in us. Let's rejoice in that life in us. That is what a parish is - the living temple of God. Jesus is the temple, you are the temple, and the building is the temple.
You know, about a thousand years ago in France, there was a bishop who was preaching on the feast of the dedication of his cathedral. He was doing kind of what I'm doing this evening. And he made an interesting connection about the beautiful Cathedral in France. This is a thousand years ago, and each and every one of us as the temple of God.
Let me read to you what he said, because what he said 1000 years ago, rings true for us today in 2021. And I want to repeat it to you as a representative of Pope Francis. His name was St. Ceasarius of Arles. He said this. He was celebrating the anniversary of the dedication of this cathedral. He said, “My fellow Christians, do you want to celebrate joyfully at the anniversary of the birth of this temple? Then let us not destroy the living temples of God in ourselves by works of evil. Let me speak clearly,” the bishop said, “so that everybody can understand. When we come into the church, whenever we come into the church, we prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as they expect the church building to be. You wish to find this church immaculately clean? Then don't soil or dirty your soul with the filth of sin. Do you wish to see this church filled with light? God, too, wants that Your soul not be in darkness, but that the light of good works and holiness will shine in you, so that He who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter this church building, so God wants to enter into your soul, as He has promised, when He said, ‘I shall live in them. I shall walk the corridors of their heart’, God says.” So those three images of the temple: Jesus, us, and this beautiful building.
I wish you all the best. I thank, once again, your dear parish priest, Fr. Tarog for inviting me and Msgr. Kabore, to celebrate your parish Fiesta with you. We’re doing it, of course, in the time of COVID. So we have to respect the rules and regulations which I know we are all doing. And let's pray especially during this mass, that when we celebrate the parish fiesta next year when we celebrate the 52nd Parish Fiesta, we’ll be through with this COVID pandemic, God-willing. Let's give that as an intention to our dear Saint Anthony to present to the Heavenly Father and let's ask Our Lady in her Immaculate Heart, to preserve us from sin, to make us holy, and to bring us into heavenly life. Amen.