Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

1Mc 4:36,37,52-59; 1Chr 29:10-12; Lk 19:45-48

All in heaven and on earth belongs to the LORD, God Almighty.  What then can we offer to God?  The only thing that we have that God has not given us is our sin, or is it?  Sure the Lord God did not create our sin; we are responsible for our failures great and small.  However there is something else the Lord God did not create, ex nihilo.  The Lord God supplies the desire and the strength to follow up on the desire to grow in virtue to become more and more holy, but He is not solely responsible for it.  We cooperate with his grace by our acceptance of inspiration and strength.  Indeed, as our responsorial from the First Book of Chronicles reveals, “In your hand are power and might; it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.”  We bless, praise and glorify the name of our Mighty God, the LORD, God of Israel, our father from ages past unto the ages of ages.  To the LORD belong power, majesty, splendor, glory, sovereignty, dominion, riches, honor, grandeur, and might.  Indeed, the Lord Jesus commands us to be holy as our Father is holy.  This is impossible without his gracious initiative and constant support.  However, now that we know we have what it takes, we have no excuse for not growing in spirit and truth.  In our first reading the returned Exiles rededicated the altar and the temple for the glory of the LORD.  The Lord Jesus drove out of the temple those who were selling things to assert the temple was a house for prayer, not a den of thieves.

 After the Maccabean brothers were successful in their rebellion and they had crushed the enemy.  Their next desire was to purify and rededicate the temple.  On the very anniversary of that day when the Gentiles had defiled it, they arose and offered a new sacrifice on a new altar according to the law of the LORD.  Their sacrifice was drenched with animal blood, and it was saturated with the praise-filled sound of songs, harps, flutes and cymbals.  They prostrated and adored the one who answers prayer.  He delivers those who put their trust in him, and for eight days they can’t stop celebrating.  They willingly offered sacrifices to ornament the temple with gold crowns, and shields.  They freely repaired the gates and the priests’ quarters.  All this was the outward manifestation of a profound joy among the people, now that the disgrace of the Gentiles had been removed.  This octave of days is still observed among the Jews to remember the rededication of the temple.  The purity of the house of prayer informs our own desire to be pure and holy in his sight.  We may not celebrate the festival of the Dedication, but we celebrate daily our own rededication to Christ, who is the New Temple.  We are the stones of that holy dwelling place.

 The Lord Jesus was familiar with the tradition of the temple in Jerusalem.  As a child he heard the frightening and inspiring stories of the Maccabean revolt and the rededication of the temple.  Too much blood had been spilt during the revolt; this temple and all that it represented was too precious to the Lord and to the Lord’s people.  The convenience of being able to purchase animals for sacrifice in Jerusalem rather than feed and transport them over great distances made selling things in the temple area an economic no brainer.  However, these ancient entrepreneurs did not have to buy and sell so near the place for worship.  They could have found a more reasonable compromise for conducting this necessary service for the worshipers.  Perhaps, those who worked on the temple staff would provide the choicest spaces for their friends and relatives.  Perhaps, those who had the most money could buy a booth space nearest the altar of sacrifice.  Whatever the economic arrangement, it was bothersome to those who came for prayer.  Without prayer–intercession, repentance, thanksgiving, and adoration–the temple ceased to be the House of the Lord.  We, too, cease to be whom we are if we do not take time to pray.  The Lord Jesus took time to teach daily in the temple after the success of his first lesson.  Every time he came back to instruct those who sought him out they were never quite sure what prophetic sign he would use to demonstrate his lesson.  All this popularity among the common worshipers in the temple provided the Lord Jesus with a place of sanctuary.  In his Father’s House he was safe, at least for the time being.