The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
During one of my RCIA classes, we discussed the timeline of the gospels. Not chronologically, in regards to history, but when they were physically written down. It was somewhere between 70 and 90 A.D., i.e. after the second temple had been destroyed.
It wasn’t the gospels I began contemplating at that point, but the temple itself. I kept coming back on this timeline. I considered this seemingly insignificant fact—that the written Gospel didn’t exist until after the temple’s destruction—and I knew that it was no accident. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, would’ve known this too.
In John 2, right before the verses above, Jesus was livid. The temple had been turned into a marketplace. He was so angry that he literally flipped tables. He preached of the temple’s destruction, with the promise to rebuild it in three days. The Jews thought he was a crazy man. But we know now that he spoke of himself, not the physical building.
The physical temple was destroyed, about a hundred years later. And it was never rebuilt.
On my drive home, I kept on circling back to this point. And God revealed some interesting revelations:
1) Jesus is the temple. It says so in John 2:21 (“But he spoke of the temple of his body”). Jesus specifically said the temple would be rebuilt in three days—and so he was. But to take this further:
2) The second temple was destroyed. And it hasn’t been rebuilt. When you look at it, we’re still in the “three days” period. And we will continue to be so, until the end times. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” (Revelation 21:2) A new Jerusalem, after the old has been destroyed. A rebuilding. Fun fact: this new city will be a perfect cube—equal in height, width, and length—just like the holy of holies in the Jewish Temple.
The Gospels couldn’t have been recorded while the temple still stood. At that point, the people wouldn’t understand—how could such a magnificent structure be rebuilt in three days, let alone fall? It’s only when the building comes down, and there seems to be no hope left, that Gospels can be written down for all to see—during this time of no hope. When that physical building didn’t magically respawn after three days, it was obvious that Jesus had been talking of something—or someone—besides the temple.
The temple will be rebuilt, just not how everyone expected it to. That building’s destruction is proof of Jesus’s divinity. We’re not talking about just a physical structure. Jesus is still the temple. Not only in his resurrection, but in his return as well.
I’m not going to lie—the past week has been hectic. Stressful, I’m inclined to say, though the word “stress” holds a negative connotation. It’s a good hectic, but also overwhelming. I’ve been focusing a lot on myself and forget the needs of others; my mind has short-circuited in the middle of conversations. And that’s after God has taken on a lot of the burden.
Recently, I accepted a new job to begin next week. It’s a wonderful position—I’ll be helping to create Christian children’s books. For years I’ve wondered how I could use my career skills for God, and the moment I learned of this position I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It seemed perfect for me. Apparently my future employer thought so, too, because it was only a matter of days that I received the offer. As a result, I’ve also signed a lease on a new apartment to be closer to it—which I move into in four days. Life has been little but packing boxes, running out of packing tape, and crying to my friends about how hard this is.
But this is the time it was supposed to happen.
We learned of Advent at RCIA this week. I’m fully aware what month it is, I thought, thinking of the move and the job, on top of Christmas itself. I know it’s Advent. But, to borrow a phrase from our prayer service:
It can be tempting to think that, because we may be struggling these days, we can’t enter into Advent without a big change in our mood or without distancing ourselves from our real experience. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, I’m busy right now. I’m constantly distracted. I don’t feel prepared for anything. But that’s okay. This season isn’t about our being perfect—it’s about God revealing Himself to us, just as we are. And wherever we are in our life’s journey.
If there is struggle in our lives, then we want to acknowledge that before God and let that struggle be the door into Advent’s graces.
I may not prefer uprooting my life during December. And, yes, it’s all happening just when God intended for it to happen. But this year, it’s more than that. It’s not only a new beginning for my career, but it’s also a new beginning for my faith. Last week we celebrated the Rite of Welcome, in which the Church formally acknowledged my journey to become one of its own. It’s no coincidence that it’s the same time as my career shift, and my life shift, and of Advent itself.
Sometimes I get nervous. It’s a lot of change at once. But I know the Spirit is guiding me, because I’m not nearly as scared as I thought I would be. Now, in the midst of of the “stress,” is the perfect time for Advent to begin.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when a friend texted me, an hour that neither one of us are inclined to typically acknowledge. “Happy All Saints’ Day!” she’d written.
“Huzzah!” I’d replied. “And you texted me just as I got out of Mass.”
“Look at you, attending Mass on a holy day of obligation!”
If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have selected eight a.m. I also wouldn’t have gone to my usual parish, thirty minutes from home, in the opposite direction of work. But I happened to have an appointment to look at a condo in the morning, at a place literally seven minutes away from the church, and that could be no accident.
There was a magic to it, attending church at an hour I prefer to still be in bed (even if I was slightly late, thanks to New Jersey traffic). The rising sunlight hadn’t fully reached the building yet, so the stained-glass windows were slightly darkened. Gradually, over the course of the Mass, they illuminated with the breaking of day. That’s an obvious metaphor if I ever saw one.
It wasn’t so long ago that I was unaware days of obligation were a thing. And are the saints really an “obligation” on par with Christmas, or Easter? Well, no. Nothing compares to the glory of Christ. But to be gathered with His children, honoring those faithful who came before us, at an hour I’m typically not inclined to acknowledge?
It was beautiful.
I almost went again, after work, at the parish near my office. Because there is more I can be doing, more to honor those who came before us. Instead, I came home. I curled up on the couch and continued my studies. Because it’s not enough to honor the saints—it’s also our duty to be them. To be one of the faithful.
At RCIA this week, we had a nun come to speak with us about prayer. I’d admitted my Protestant background during introductions, so when we discussed praying to the saints she looked directly at me and said, “You’re probably still unconvinced about that.”
I nervously laughed and replied, “I’m getting there.”
I’m sure there’s a patron saint out there for converts who are still wary about praying to saints.
Whoever you are… please pray for me.
“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple.” —Revelation 7:14–15