We’ve all heard the expression, “Your body is a temple”. Most people think its modern expression about health, a saying to remind you to eat right, exercise and stop smoking. Today we read where that expression comes from:
19* Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; 20* you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
But here Paul had a choice. In Jewish culture there was only one Temple in the ancient world of any relevance. That is of course, the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Outlying towns had Synagogues. The difference? At the temple a properly ordained priest could make a sacrifice acceptable to God. A faithful Jew would travel to Jerusalem and bring their sacrifice to the Temple. The Priest would sacrifice it and offer it up to God. Then he would return certain portions of the sacrifice to the faithful who would eat it. At a Synagogue you had the Torah alone. The scriptures were read and taught but there was no sacrifice. Paul could have said, ‘your body is a Synagogue’, but he didn’t, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he chose “Temple”.
So, if your body is a Temple, what then in the sacrifice? Paul tells us, “you were brought with a price.” Of course, that price is the once and for all acceptable sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
But here another curious problem arises. How then do you get the sacrifice into the temple? How is the temple (your body) and the sacrifice (Jesus Christ) joined together? Quite simply you must bring your offering to the Temple. Then a properly ordained priest will offer the sacrifice that is acceptable to God. Then he will give it you and you eat it. Jesus made a plan exactly for this with the Eucharist when he took bread and said, “This is my body”. In this way the sacrifice and the temple are reunited and the temple again becomes the dwelling place of God. This is what has been done in Christianity for 2000 years. This is what happens in every Catholic Mass. This is how the pattern of the Old Testament is fulfilled in the new.
Paul says as much in the passages leading up to his reference to your body as a temple. He decries sexual immorality. Why? Because:
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
In the passage, Paul is talking about physical bodies. How can your physical body be a member of the body of Christ if the union with Christ is only spiritual? The Catholic Eucharist is not a mere spiritual symbol of the sacrifice of Christ or a mere remembrance of his life and teaching. It IS the successful sacrifice of Jesus made physically present again to sanctify the physical Temple of his disciples. This is an important point. The sacrifice of Christ is made once on Calvary and was successful. Christ is not sacrificed again. But that which was sacrificed is made present again so that it can be distributed and consumed by the faithful, just as it was in the Old Covenant.
“Your body is a Temple”, is not a statement about personal fitness, good hygiene or even just good moral habits. “Your body is a Temple” is a statement about the reality of Christian life that the God of the universe wishes to dwell inside you and sanctify your body and soul, to prepare you for your heavenly destination.