It’s fascinating to see how often the things we read in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass that come to us from 25 centuries ago are similar to the things we hear daily on the newscasts on television and read in our newspapers. Today, for example, we read of the joy with which the Jewish people went home to their own country—the promised land—and rebuilt their temple so that they could worship God properly after living for some 50 years amidst the paganism of Babylon where there was no temple, no sacrificial worship, and no exercise of the Jewish priesthood or the observances of the beloved holy days of Judaism.
What do we have today? We have the fact that in parts of New Orleans—in the very parish where I have lived and ministered for over 18 years, the church is closed; the Blessed Sacrament is not present either in the parish church or in the Dominican community chapel or in the chapel of perpetual adoration, or in the chapel of the Sisters of Mount Carmel who live within the parish boundaries and operate a girl’s high school there. There has been no Mass in the parish since August 29. This is the first time in over 75 years that the official prayer of the Church has not risen daily from that part of New Orleans called Lakeview. The other day, I was struck and very moved by what one of the ladies of the parish told me by telephone from her place of refuge in Baton Rouge. She said, “Lakeview has been more than just a neighborhood, and Saint Dominic more than just another Catholic parish. They were a way of life.”
And so they were. We can appreciate much more the words of the psalmists that we repeat in our liturgies. When they were in exile in Babylon, having been brought there in slavery after the conquest of the Holy City, Jerusalem, and the destruction of King Solomon’s temple, their captors asked them to sing some of the “songs of Zion”—the sacred music which had been sung in the temple during the previous four centuries of divine worship in Jerusalem. They answered, “How can we sing the songs of Zion in the land of Babylon (which, by the way, today we call ‘Iraq’). We have hung up our harps on the trees by the rivers of Babylon. We cannot sing joyfully in this wretched, godless land. We want to go home. We want to worship God as we know we should.”
And now, with those heart-wrenching words in our minds, we read that there is another hurricane in the gulf of Mexico. Will it be another disastrous event like Katrina? God forbid. However, let us remember that temples in which God is worshiped are not primarily composed of brick and mortar and stone, but rather of the flesh and blood of the human heart. We are the temples of divine worship of the New Testament; we follow the example of Our Divine Lord Jesus, who says of his own body: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again. Hurricanes can flood buildings and close churches; they cannot destroy faith or flood our love of God. Wherever Jesus is, there is our home. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.