We Are God’s Dwelling Place

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on May 13, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, at Saint Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington.

Are we aware of the tremendous dignity and infinite worth we possess because God chose us in Christ, at our baptism, to become His adopted sons and daughters, and members of the Church, Christ's Body? Today's scripture readings, especially the Gospel account, invite us to pause, to reflect and to become aware even more deeply than before.

From baptism on, we are the dwelling place of God, His living temple! This is precisely what Jesus is telling us in today's Gospel account: "Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him." The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses this same Gospel passage: "…But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: ‘If a man loves me,' says the Lord, ‘he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him,'" (No. 260). As long as we do not sin seriously, we remain God's dwelling, His own divine life is within us. And, should we sin seriously, His divine life is restored through the sacrament of penance, or confession. Savor for a moment this truth, this reality: each one of us in the state of grace is a living dwelling place of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Once again, the Catechism reminds us: "By the grace of Baptism ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,' we are called to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death in eternal light (cf. Paul VI, CPG, para. 9)" (No. 265).

What are the implications of this renewed awareness that we are the dwelling place of God? Certainly, having genuine respect for ourselves; this respect becomes tangible by taking good care of the entire self each one of us is: body, intellect and soul. Also, having genuine respect for other people; this respect again becomes visible by the way we treat others as individuals within the family circle, in the workplace, in the parish, within the community.

How do we continue to remain aware of our dignity and to live in harmony with the reality that we are God's dwelling? Jesus points out two ways in today's Gospel account. First, keep the word which He speaks to us: "Whoever loves me will keep my word." Keeping God's Word involves being open to what He tells us in the scriptures and the living Tradition of the Church, and through the official teaching office of the Church. Keeping God's Word means hearing, obeying and putting into practice His Word. So, are we attentive to His Word as it is proclaimed to us during the Mass? Do we pray over His Word at home? Do we seek to understand better the teachings of the Church, for example, by studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults?

A second way by which we remain aware of our dignity is by following the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us in today's Gospel that the Father sends us the Holy Spirit to help us remember the Word which Jesus speaks and to understand that Word better. "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." So, do we seek the guidance and direction of God the Holy Spirit in our decision-making, in our efforts to be more Christ-like? The early Church was troubled and divided, as we heard in today's first reading. Those first disciples sought guidance from the Holy Spirit and the divisive issue became resolved.

Our Blessed Lady also helps us to remain aware of our dignity and to live more faithfully as God's adopted sons and daughters. Her insistence on prayer and penance keeps us mindful and faithful. Today, we observe the 90th anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition at Fatima in 1917. As a diocesan family, we begin today a more intense period of prayer and penance, which will lead us to our diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on October 13, the 90th anniversary of Our Lady's final apparition at Fatima.

When we live within the realistic awareness of our dignity and worth as a dwelling of the Trinity, when we make every effort every day to keep God's Word and to follow the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, then Christ's gift of peace will be ours and from that peace, greater unity will flow, within the family, the Church and the world.

Yes, today's scriptures bring us back to the basics: to the tremendous dignity and infinite worth we possess as adopted sons and daughters of God and members of the Church. We are each the dwelling place of the Trinity! Pope Saint Leo's words remain as encouraging and challenging today as they did when he first spoke them centuries ago: "Christian, recognize your dignity, and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member…" (No. 1691).

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