Last week’s article discussed the power of baptism to cleanse us of original sin and give us a fresh start in life. This article will describe another effect of baptism, our consecration as Temples of the Holy Spirit.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul described the faithful as temples of the Holy Spirit. See 1 Cor. 3:16-18, 6:19. In ancient Israel, there was one Temple on earth; and it was the dwelling place of God’s glory among us. When Solomon dedicated the Temple in 957 B.C., the wondrous majesty of God filled it with such glory that at first no one dared enter. Due to the sins of the people, the glory of God left the Temple; and the Babylonians destroyed it in 586. But, when the people of God repented and returned from exile, they rebuilt the Temple; and the glory of God returned. In the early second century B.C., a Greek tyrant desecrated the Temple as a part of his effort to suppress the Jewish faith. But the people fought back, regained the Temple and dedicated it again to God. By the time of Christ, not only Jews but God fearers from around the Roman Empire came to worship at the Temple, knowing that they were with God as much as possible on this earth.
The Temple was thus central to the Jewish faith and to presenting this faith to the world. And so, Jesus loved the Temple greatly and visited it often. Because of this love for the Temple, He drove out the merchants and money changers who marred its glory. Through baptism, we receive more than the glory of the ancient Temple, for Jesus shares His life with us. Through Baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit and are able to be a people of heroic and supernatural virtue, able to bring the divine presence into the world. When we commit sins, we mar this glory as the money changers did of old; and mortal sin forfeits this glory altogether as the glory of God left the Temple because of the grave sins of the people.
But through repentance and the sacrament of Reconciliation, God is always willing to purify our souls once again. And, if we cooperate with Christ, then when the journey of this life is over, we, with all the faithful, will receive permanent temples of unimaginable light and joy in heaven, where we will be in God’s presence forever.