“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. I Corinthians 6:12-20 (Epistle from Sunday of the Prodigal Son)
The Epistle Lesson from Sunday, February 24, is for the commemoration of the First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist, which is II Corinthians 4:6-15. The regular Epistle reading that is read on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son will not be read this year. Because I have recently written on II Corinthians 4:6-15, and because the Epistle from the Sunday of the Prodigal Son is very timely as we prepare for Great Lent, I am writing on this today, even though it will not be read in churches this year.
My office seems to be in a state of perpetual mess. I always have many projects going, and I’m not always faithful about putting things away when I’m done using them. Piles accumulate and once in a while I have to just stop and ruthlessly clean, not only for my own sanity but because a messy office might give off a less than professional look.
The altar in my church is just the opposite. I’m meticulous with having it clean and orderly. When I change the altar cloths, I spent extra time making sure they are straight and centered. I’m faithful about folding up vestments, putting away books, etc.
What is the difference between the office and the altar? Why am I more careful with one and more carefree with the other? The simple answer is, “Well, one is the ALTAR!” I mean, that has to be clean. That is the temple of God! If a person comes into my office and finds a few papers strewn around, that’s not a big deal. But what if God’s temple looked like that? No way!
In the Epistle lesson today, Saint Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. And that our bodies are not meant for immorality but for the Lord. We probably don’t think of our bodies as temples, at least not as often as we should. We live in a society that is in to “super-sizing” meals. Our foods are filled with chemicals. I wonder if we really read the ingredients on some of the things we consume if we would still consume them. College students (and sadly some adults) have spent many a night embracing a toilet because they drank too much. None of this behavior is “temple worthy.” If our bodies are temples, we should treat them with a little more reverence.
Can you imagine if someone was standing outside the front door of the church, carrying a sign that says “I’m a faithful Christian” in one hand, and in the other hand, holding a bullhorn and screaming out obscenities? This would not be in line with correct “temple behavior.” Yet, how many Christians wear a cross for all to see and use profanity, compulsively gossip, and delight in trash talking other people.
The point of today’s reflection is that we are to see our bodies as temples. They should reflect the appearance of the altar, rather than the office. We should be careful and deliberate about not only what we put into them, but what comes out of them.
I have had a lifelong struggle with eating too much. I like to eat. I don’t think of the temple of God when I’m eating, ever. I don’t think of the temple when I order food or dessert. I think of me, and how much I like eating and how good the food will taste and how the food will make me feel. And that’s a problem. It’s a problem because I’m overweight. And it will be a problem if I can’t use my talents because my weight has caused an illness or premature death.
One tool I am trying to use in a battle to eat healthier is to see my body as a temple. The altar where I serve occasionally does not look ready for a service—after Liturgy on Sunday, it is messy. Come Monday morning, the first thing I do when I arrive at the office is go into the altar, to make sure it is cleaned. As for our bodies, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal, we should just not enjoy too much of a meal. But once the meal is over and we have digested the food, it’s time to cleanse the body through some kind of exercise, to keep it trim and functioning properly. And yes, the body includes also our mouths, which we should keep clean at all times.
Our bodies are our greatest tools for living life, using our talents, enjoying ourselves, and glorifying God. Where would we be without them? Our bodies include the necessary organs we use to sustain life. They include our hands which do good works, our minds which house our creativity, our eyes through which we take in ninety percent of stimuli, our mouths through which we communicate, and so many more things. If we keep our bodies like the temples they are supposed to be, controlling what goes in and what comes out of them, we will find ourselves much more successful in living a life of faith and better able to glorify God.
I revolted senselessly out of Your fatherly glory; I have squandered sinfully all of the riches You gave me. Hence to You, using the Prodigal’s words, I cry out, I have sinned before You, merciful loving Father. O receive me in repentance, I pray, and treat me as one of Your hired hands. (Kontakion of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, 3rd Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
“Glorify God with your body!” (I Corinthians 6:20) Keep your body like a temple!