The Reading from the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. (6:16-7:1)
People are hungry for God. The world is groaning and aching to know God. We are among the most blessed people in the history of the world because we have knowledge of this living God and His Son, our lord and savior Jesus Christ.
Because we acknowledge His Son and because we have received the gift of Chrism within the Holy Church, we are also given the gift of the Holy Spirit and this gift makes us “the temple of the living God” as the Apostle Paul states here in the second epistle to the Corinthians. It is not enough for God to simply wash away our past sins, or to pay the price of our redemption. The God who is love is not pleased until He can fully share every good and perfect gift with His people. He goes so far as to refer to them as His children, His “sons and daughters.”
The Temple was a physical place made of stones and bricks and it was in this particular place that the Lord our God would come to dwell and meet His people and because of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Temple is no longer located in one particular place. The Temple was destroyed in 70 a.d. as the Lord prophesied and it has not yet been rebuilt. At any rate it is of little consequence to us because we are not required to go on far away pilgrimages in distant lands to seek the living God. We are required to go on the most difficult journey for any man, which is the journey inward. Our Lord reminds us that “the kingdom of God is within you.”
Everything that belongs to God is now ours because He is generous and charitable and He wants to give us of Himself and even of His divine nature. St. Paul reminds us however that there is something required of the sons and daughters of God most high. He quotes from the prophet Isaiah saying they must “touch nothing unclean.” He continues by telling us that we should “cleanse (ourselves) of every defilement of body and spirit.”
But what does “every defilement of body and soul” mean? According to St. John Chrysostom “Unclean things refer to adultery and fornication in the flesh and to evil thoughts in the soul. We must be delivered from both.” In our reading St. Paul quotes again from Isaiah saying “come out from them, and be seperate from them.” One of the most important aspects of staying pure is to be careful of the company you keep. Of course you immediately think of the people you are with but the fact is that our phones now keep us company, our movies and shows do as well. Our social media keeps us company and in addition to all of these we have the company of real flesh and blood co-workers and students and friends. Often the things that are offered to us by friends or by shows or by movies or by websites….these things are often unclean and immoral. We should be willing to guard our senses in the same way that we would guard our children from nearby danger. The dangers are real even if we don’t perceive them.
God sends us His divine grace and is present in our lives. He works in our hearts and minds and regenerates us with new life. It is because God is holy and desires to dwell in us, that we must also be holy. Because what is holy can never be mingled with the unholy. There can be no fellowship between light and darkness. What the Lord requires of us is simply a clean temple in which to dwell. A place where God is welcome.
We may attempt to live holy lives most of the time yet we feel that we lack the presence of God. We don’t believe that God is hearing our prayers or helping us. Our faith is still a bit shaky. Perhaps that little bit of influence from the outside, from facebook or netflix or the radio or the nightly news is not allowing us to really be separate and clean. Perhaps that bit of time with the person who curses or speaks coursely is not allowing us to live in purity. To be holy means to be separate and set apart for God. You can’t be a little bit holy. You either are or you aren’t living a life that is separated from the world and the things of the world.
What we are trying to do is to obey the first and greatest commandment, to offer God all of our heart, soul, mind, strength and ultimately our very lives. We don’t attempt to live holy lives because God requires this or needs this. He needs nothing from us. But He desires each of us deeply. He wants to commune and unite with us. We attempt to live holy lives because we want and need God’s presence and fellowship in our lives. God is faithful to keep each of these promises He’s given us. A promise to live and to move among us. A promise to be our God and to make us His people. A promise to adopt us. And a promise to call us His own sons and daughters. Only let us do the hard work of constantly searching out our sins and separating ourselves from all of the influences that harm us and leave us unclean. Let us continue repenting and cleansing ourselves until He makes what holiness we have, a perfect holiness.