Mary and Joseph were at their wits end. After three days of searching, they had finally found Jesus. There he was, seated in the Temple’s second court, asking questions of the rabbis. Mary blurted out, “Son, why have you done this to us? You see that your father and I have been searching for you in sorrow.” His answer caught them completely off-guard, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:48-50). Jesus says exactly the same thing to those of us hungering for his presence today! He waits for us in the temple of our parish church.
The Catechism (593) reminds us how deeply Jesus loved the Temple of his day. It was adamat-qodesh, holy ground. God was present in the Temple’s innermost chamber in a way unsurpassed anywhere else in all of creation, except in Jesus himself. It was the only place where sacrifice could lawfully be offered and, like all faithful Jews, Jesus made pilgrimage there at least three times a year.
In the New Covenant, Jesus takes all of this to a higher level. The Temple prefigured him, in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). Through Baptism he makes us members of his Church, “living stones” in the spiritual temple of his Body (1 Pet 2:5). The many sacrifices of the Jerusalem Temple found their fulfillment in his one upon the cross, the same sacrifice renewed in our celebration of the Eucharist; and it is his Eucharistic presence that allows us to speak of our church buildings as temples.
Jesus waits for us in these buildings, ready to engage our hearts as he did the Temple’s rabbis. The tabernacle in which our Lord dwells under the appearance of bread is the reality foreshadowed in the Temple’s Holy of Holies and the table of shewbread kept before it. When Jesus told the woman of Samaria, “an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem … [but] authentic worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth,” he was not eliminating the idea of holy ground. Rather, he was expanding it. Holy ground is now found wherever our Lord’s Body is reserved in the tabernacle.
Are you longing for Jesus? Do you feel like you can’t find him no matter how hard you pray? Make a pilgrimage to the temple – not thousands of miles away, but down the road to your parish. There you will find him. There you will objectively enter into his presence, no matter how deep your sadness or confusion. There you can offer yourself to him, place yourself into his Heart, without any need for words. In the simple act of going to him, sitting in his presence, and gazing at him with longing, you will have prayed beautifully. “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:17).
Like Mary and Joseph, you will always find Jesus in the Temple.
This article was adapted from Shane Kapler’s book, Through, With, and In Him: The Prayer Life of Jesus and How to Make It Our Own (Angelico Press, 2014).