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Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Jews ask Jesus for a sign, and he blithely comments, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” One of the most startling claims that Jesus made about himself is that the people of Israel should come to him for those goods that they formerly sought in the temple: forgiveness, teaching, and healing. And he confirmed this identification when making this statement after purifying the temple of the money changers.

The bystanders remark on the absurdity of this claim, reminding him that the construction of this Herodian version of the sacred place had taken forty-six years. The author of the Gospel provides the indispensable gloss: “But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” In a word, Jesus himself is the very particular “place” where the God of Israel, who cannot be contained by the entire universe, deigned in a unique and unrepeatable way to dwell.

The temple known to Jesus and his followers would be obliterated just forty years after the time of Christ. But the temple of Jesus’ Body, the Church, will endure forever.