The Jews were proud of the Temple in Jerusalem. It stood majestically at the center of the city. It could be seen from afar like a jewel reflecting the sun’s rays. It was not surprising that they were talking about it at the time Jesus was also teaching. The Temple was so majestic and sacred that the Jews thought it would stand forever. They literally called Jerusalem, as we read in Scripture, the Eternal City. Since God, who is Eternal, dwells in the Temple, the whole structure would be forever.
But Jesus said that the Temple would be destroyed. And true enough, the Temple would not make it years after His death. In 70 AD, the Romans sacked Jerusalem. And the building that the Jews believed to be eternal faced mortality. Actually, the Temple that they had had been rebuilt. They called it the 2nd Temple, restored by the Jews after their return from exile.
What then is the point of the Gospel today at the end of the liturgical year? As a culmination, the focus of the readings like Revelation in the first reading is the end of time. The Church suggests that we reflect on what lasts and not what is temporary.
We also have our own “Temples of Jerusalem” — things we are so proud of that we act as if they will accompany us beyond the grave. What are these? Our wealth, our achievements, and our illustrious name to mention a few.
But we soon realize that we have to exert a lot of effort to maintain their existence. We have to keep the business afloat. We have to continue to strive to fulfill our goals. We have to take care that our name is not tainted. Why? Because deep inside, we know they will not last without our effort.
And true indeed. There will come a time when someone else will sack our lives, and all that we are proud of will be gone.
Jesus said that evangelical poverty is important. Those who live ‘poor in spirit’ will obtain the Kingdom of Heaven. When we experience this dependence on God, when all that we have suddenly disappears in all forms of tragedy and the only thing left is God, we find ourselves faced with what is eternal. What is eternal cannot be destroyed even by the greatest calamity in our lives.
One of our philosophy teachers, Mr. Eduardo Calasanz, said that in life there is but one thing certain: death. And thus, when we say, “I love you” it also includes its destiny. Love’s life is beyond the point of death. Love knows no mortality. It is, as St. Paul says, the greatest thing that remains other than our faith and hope.
It is therefore good to remember that the word Filipinos use to express love is “mahal kita.” Mahal is also used to mean, “expensive” as diamonds are “mahal.” When we say “Mahal Kita” (I love you) we affirm what the readings today mean: our love is the real treasure that cannot be destroyed; it is the real thing that is forever. That is why it is more valuable than life itself (we do give our lives to those we greatly love).
And so to Jesus, it is not the structure of the Temple that is forever. No wonder, years after His death, St. Paul introduced in our faith the belief that the real Temple is Jesus Himself. And since we are members of Christ’s body, God resides in every single person. We are now the Temples of the Holy Spirit. The Eternal City is the Kingdom of God. It is realized when we are all gathered in Christ; when everything is restored in Christ.
Life everlasting is already experienced when we love.
In my work in prison, when everything that the prisoners own before their incarceration is stripped from them, they realize what remains forever: their beloved and their faith in the Lord. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, I believe the criminal who requested paradise was one of the first who entered when the gates were opened.