A good place to start this week’s reflection is with

OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 CORINTHIANS 3: 16 – 23]. There we read that God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.” What is a temple? Any good dictionary will inform us that it is a place regarded as a dwelling place of a god or gods. {as an aside I find it interesting that the word temple also means the flat part of either side of the head!}

The only real, living, temple our Christian God has is each and every single one of his believing disciples. It is in us, the People of God – each and every single one – that the Lord dwells and should be worshipped. This is the foundation to love of both God and neighbour. Each and every single one of us enjoys a fundamental ‘holiness’ which we should be striving to bring to wholeness. We forget this at our own peril – keep it within the mind and brain and make the flat part on either side of the head its sentry.

All this must remind us that we are not the primary controllers of our lives and living – but we do have personal responsibility for both. I often reflect on the fact that this must be the primary meaning of Saint John’s words:he entered his own realm …. to those who yielded him their allegiance, he gave the right to become ….”

{JOHN 1: 11 – 13} In other words we are his temples but we have the right to become even more so. Do not forget that if we have a right then we also have a duty. We live today, more than ever, in a society which proclaims much, as it should, about human rights, but all too often little is said or emphasised about the duties that are the basic accompaniment.

Our progress towards wholeness depends on our acceptance of the fact that we are the Lord’s temples – but any progress is irrevocably linked not only to the rights we enjoy as temples but also the duties we have to become clear and visible beacons of light, joy and hope to one another and to the world at large. In this endeavour we must always be wary that our group witness does not deteriorate into one of tribalism. In our own age tribalism has become the curse of Africa. We must ensure that it does not become the curse of our contemporary Church. Tribalism creates walls and prejudices that are unworthy of people who are Temples of the Lord. The Orthodox Metropolitan of Kiev, in the early part of the last century, once remarked that the walls of separation do not rise as far as Heaven.” Catholics are, very often, inclined to tribalism of thought and action.

Jesus himself taught us the dangers of tribalism and the challenge of stepping out of a ‘tribalistic’ approach when,

IN TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MATTHEW 5: 38 – 48], he proclaims HIS teaching (which is in complete contrast to the then contemporary approach) with the questions – if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” This Gospel reading tells us that those of us who acknowledge that we are, in this present world, temples of the Lord are expected to go the extra mile. In addition, Jesus asks the basic anti-tribal question: if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” WHAT REWARD? Pope Francis has warned us against the dangers of proselytism …. which in practice means little more than creating little clones of ourselves. How many Catholics actually know and understand what, for example, local Anglicans actually believe? Yet, they too are temples of God. (surprise, surprise!?)

We have to remember that this Gospel extract is a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when he proclaimed the new charter and constitution of the Christian disciple, the individual Christian temple

All too often we have raised and spent countless millions of Rand in building local parish churches (temples?!) as visible symbols of our commitment, and have celebrated the achievement of a ‘bond free church building’. Then everyone relaxes! How many parishes have decided to raise money through a new bond (and how many bishops would approve of this?) and spend that money (happily working to repay the bond again?) on the

BUILDING (formation) of individual temples that will minister to and in the community represented by the bricks and mortar? Far too much has been tied up with cement, and not nearly enough spent on the professional training of quality and competent lay ministers (youth workers, musicians, catechists)! What about a parish raising money through a part-bond and then suggesting to the local bishop that they will sponsor (all expenses) of a suitable young priest to go overseas for further studies so that the Staff of the Seminary can be improved and future priests properly trained and formed? So the Parish Complex is debt free! NOW WHAT!? Not enough group-thinking, too much tribalism! What reward have you?”

“You have heard ….. but I say to you …”