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Today’s First Reading describes King Solomon’s reflection on God dwelling with the people in the newly built Temple of Jerusalem. Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple is very enriching and edifying, as he remarks how unbelievable it is that the God who is all-powerful and omni-present, should choose to make His divine presence especially manifested in the Temple which the children of Israel have built. The Responsorial Psalm echoes the specialness of being in and around the place of God’s presence. Thus, it presents the joy of being around the Temple as a place where God dwells; a place where true seekers of God come to be blessed in a special way by the presence of God.

Today’s Gospel passage describes Jesus’ confrontation with the Scribes and the Pharisees sent from Jerusalem by the Jewish religious Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin, to assess Jesus’ “heretical teachings”; on why Jesus did not command his disciples to do the ritual washing of hands before meals or during a banquet as laid down in the law of Moses in Exodus 30:17ff. Jesus explains to the Scribes and Pharisees that rules and regulations should draw us closer to God, and not prevent us from experiencing God abiding with us. Jesus thus reminds us of the purpose of rules and regulations, that they should draw us closer to the God Who is present with us, not be stumbling blocks to us coming to a greater awareness of God’s presence in our lives. In short, Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that the true source of defilement of God's laws was a person’s heart and mind. True religion should not be mere external observances disconnected from the mind and the intentions.

King Solomon was humbled and awestruck that God would allow the divine presence be experienced in the beautiful Temple he had built for the Lord God. It was a blessing for the king and all the people of Israel that God would reveal himself to them by residing within the walls of the structure which King Solomon had constructed. No wonder the psalmist today says: “I had rather one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Just being near the Temple, out in the elements, was better than being sheltered in a tent with those who did not do God’s will or were not aware of God’s presence.

If we strive to draw closer to God, He will bless our efforts with renewed sense of His love and presence in our lives. We will rejoice that God has chosen to dwell in our midst – actually within us and within others. This is God’s will, that we are conscious of Him being with us, loving us, guiding us, empowering us to share that presence with others. In doing these, we will be able to confidently echo the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm in reference to ourselves as we say, “How lovely is Your dwelling place, LORD, Mighty God.” Following Jesus' recommendations, we need to remember that the essence of religion is a personal relationship with God and with our fellow-human beings, not merely the external observances of rules and regulations. God expects from us that generosity and good will urge us to practice more mercy, offer more kindness, show more willingness to forgive offenses, and exercise more readiness to serve others lovingly and sacrificially. God bless you today!


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