November 24, 2023
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs
Lectionary: 501

1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59
1 Chronicles 29:10bcd, 11abc, 11d-12a, 12bcd
Luke 19:45-48

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For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of deliverance and praise. They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priests' chambers and furnished them with doors. There was great joy among the people.
Book of Maccabees

Whenever I enter my beloved St. John’s Church at Creighton, a sense of peace engulfs me. I thank God for the  gift  of this sacred space,  just as the Maccabees did in the first reading. Ah yes!

What a contrast with the somewhat disconcerting second reading from Luke where an angry Jesus drives the merchants out of the temple,
The juxtaposition puzzled me until I tried to imagine how I would feel if a cacophony of merchants were hawking their wares on the steps of St. John’s. Like Jesus, I would be furious and want to drive them away.

It hit me that the message of the two readings is identical. We need the reverence we experience in our sacred spaces and it is imperative that we preserve them for that reason. The closure of churches during the pandemic reinforced this understanding for me.

While I faithfully watched Mass on TV or Zoom , it took an act of will to keep doing so. It just wasn’t the same as sharing worship with others in a beautiful house of worship like St. John’s. I badly missed the sense of community and praying together that no electronic device could offer.  I became more grateful than ever that our heritage involves the understanding that beauty promotes spirituality – finding God in all things, as the Jesuits would say, including statues and stained glass.

Religious people are often criticized for spending money on buildings that could be spent on human needs. Some critics even suggest that the Vatican should sell its priceless art works for the poor. Like who would buy the Sistine Chapel? But we NEED our sacred spaces.
Think about your place of worship whether it’s a Cathedral or a tiny rural church. What has it meant to your life and that of your community? Where have you turned in time of sorrow for hope and inspiration? What are your joyful memories of Christmas or weddings and baptisms? In recently writing a book about the history of St. John’s, I found that for many members, all these things are almost inseparable from the church itself.

Both the Maccabees and Jesus knew how important sacred spaces are to helping people to experience the holy as they struggle through life. Now that the hectic holiday season is beginning, we need that sense of peace more than ever so treat yourself to a break from all the craziness by visiting your personal sacred space.
Holiday blessings to all of you!

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