The Fulfillment of Encounter: Returning to the Temple
When the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon, they longed to return to their native land. Being captives in a foreign land among foreign people and their foreign gods was the darkest hour since their captivity in Egypt. But still, they were able to worship God—those who hadn’t already abandoned him for pagan idols—they were able to carry on familial traditions and heritages. God still sent prophets to them and heard their cries and pleas; so, you may ask, what’s the big deal? Why be so dramatic about it?
All that is left of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, The Wailing Wall.
They longed for Jerusalem because in Jerusalem dwelt the Temple of God, the Living God. In Jerusalem, God was uniquely present in a part of the temple called the Holy of Holies. So in a tangible way, they had been removed from his presence and the true worship that God himself had established in the temple where he had chosen to live among them. And as far as they could see, their children would never know, would never experience the closeness with which they had lived with God. And this is painful to a heart that knows the difference. So you can imagine their joy when after seventy long years of exile they were given leave to return to their home, rebuild their temple, and resume their worship, living again among the presence of the living God in Jerusalem.
And this, I can say, was my joy in embracing the Catholic faith. God became tangible, the worship he had given us to make was resumed in my life, and I knew Him like I had never known Him before. In coming into the Catholic Church, we not only return to the place where he has chosen to dwell among us, the tabernacles of our churches, but we become living tabernacles, new holy of holies, because God himself dwells now within us. And so in returning to the temple, we become temples, and God dwells even more fully in the world today.