Whenever I go to Europe and marvel at the tremendous Churches and Basilicas, their size and ornamentation, I wonder at the resources that must have gone into building them. Some of them took hundreds of years to complete and all the while there would have been many thousands of people living in poverty. Perhaps the Church would have done better to organise the building of mass housing for the poor or at least infrastructure projects that could have better served to increase their standard of living? Perhaps the same reflection is true of the church today! In fact the question as to what it means to live simply and to embrace the same sort of poverty as Jesus did has been a question that has exercised the minds of theologians and reformers for centuries. For example, one of the driving forces of the Cistercian reform of the Benedictine order was centred upon the call to embrace poverty. When you compare the rich ornamentations of the Benedictine Churches with the stark austerity of the Cistercian ones, you can see the dialogue in action. The letters of St Bernard of Clairvaux to Odo of Cluny are also fascinating reading on this subject.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Lateran Basilica in Rome it can be helpful for us to remember that the people who built these wonderful examples of architecture did so for the greater glory of God. The huge Churches of times gone by were actually evangelistic in that spoke to everyone of the greatness and grandeur of God! It is also important to remember that it is not the Churches of stone and mortar that are the most important temples of God. It is the people of God who are first and foremost the Body of Christ, the Church Jesus Christ initiated almost 2000 years ago.

It is in this sense that we must look after our own bodies that are temples of the Holy Spirit. At baptism God chooses to dwell within us in a new and definitive way. Each of us must ensure that the environment of our own bodies is a worthy and fit dwelling place for God! Thus we begin to see that there is an element of truth in both the stark, and austere Churches that speak of the humility and poverty of Christ as well as the grand and magnificent ones that speak to us of His glory and majesty. God chooses to dwell in the ragged and worn out bodies of the aged as well as the vibrant and strong bodies of the youth.

Do I ever consider my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit? Do I ensure that my body is a fit and worthy place for Christ to dwell?

Lord Jesus, you became incarnate in the form of a human body; you became a man. You died and rose again to new life. The reality of this is witnessed to in your bodily existence. Help me to treat my body well so that I use it to always give glory to you. Help me never to abuse or mistreat my body for in doing so I harm the temple of the Holy Spirit.