He dwells among us: Builders of God’s dwelling

With the help of St. Joseph, let our eucharistic Lord transform you into a beautiful cathedral

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of Hosts!” (Ps 84:1) The opening verse of this psalm, which is one of my favorites, echoes more and more in my heart each day as I witness the incredible progress being made with the finishing details of our new cathedral.

With its dedication fast approaching on March 3, I marvel at the incredible transformation that has occurred since its groundbreaking on April 19, 2015. And yet this construction project of brick and mortar is but an image of the spiritual construction project each soul represents. For as St. Paul reminds us, we are “God’s building,” and each of us “must be careful how he builds upon it.” (1 Cor 9: 9, 10) In preparation for our cathedral dedication, it would be good for all of us to reflect on the building up of our soul into a beautiful cathedral of God.

In our modern age, a cathedral-size church can be designed and built in a relatively short number of years. But even after it is dedicated, it still requires 70 to 80 years to fully adorn and beautify — approximately the span of a lifetime. Such is the soul!

In a homily on the occasion of the dedication of a church, St. Augustine reflected on how each of us is a house of God, which we make more beautiful by making it, first and foremost, a house of prayer. His words bear repeating:

“We are gathered together to celebrate the dedication of a house of prayer. This is our house of prayer, but we too are a house of God. If we are a house of God, its construction goes on in time so that it may be dedicated at the end of time. The house, in its construction, involves hard work, while its dedication is an occasion for rejoicing. What was done when this church was being built is similar to what is done when believers are built up into Christ.”

As part of the daily arrangement of psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours that clergy and religious pray each day, many speak of the Temple of Jerusalem, for it represented the goal of each pilgrim’s journey. The Temple was the longing and the joy of the Jewish people because it was the place of God’s presence, His holy house, and to be within it was to truly be in communion with God.

Think about this: When you enter into a Catholic church, you are literally a “temple” that enters the “Temple.” What makes a church a true church is God’s presence — the Eucharist! It is Christ who forms us into His body as a temple through the Holy Spirit. As such, we are never more fully who we are as a person and as a people of God as when we are united with Christ, our head in holy Communion. In nuptial terms, Christ is our bridegroom and we are His bride — how beautiful then should the bridal chamber of our heart be!

But there also are a number of other psalms that lament the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by God’s enemies. When we stop being a house of prayer and neglect our spiritual care, our soul can come to resemble over time the ruins of a desecrated temple. May we never be afraid of frequenting the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist.

All of us have weaknesses that discourage us in our efforts to become a more beautiful dwelling of God. But because Jesus, in His mercy and love, longs to be the soul’s “master architect and builder,” He uses our weaknesses as the very raw materials for the building of a more glorious dwelling of God. Entrust your weaknesses to God and permit His grace to work in you. Follow the counsel of Jesus, who says, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” that withstands the winds, rain, and flood. To ignore His words is to be “like a fool who built his house on sand” that quickly succumbs to the harsh elements that life is never short of. (Mt 7:24-27)

As part of our preparation for our cathedral dedication, I would like to propose the following prayer, calling upon the help and intercession of St. Joseph:

Good and Holy St. Joseph, you built a humble home of wood and stone for Jesus and Mary in Nazareth. But the first home for God’s two most precious gifts to us was your heart. Help us, as God’s special carpenter, to be built up into a beautiful cathedral home for Jesus and Mary.

In this new year that we have entered, may it be your personal resolution to allow our Eucharistic Lord to transform you more and more, with the help of St. Joseph, His “special carpenter,” into a beautiful cathedral dwelling of God.

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