Consecration for worship


John 10: 22-30

The context of the gospel today is the Feast of the Dedication, or Hanukkah. It is the winter festival of light for Jews when they remember the reconsecration of the Jerusalem Temple after it had been desecrated by Greek pagan worship imposed by the Hellenist leader Antiochus IV Epiphanes. We can read about this in the first book of Maccabees (1 Mac 4: 36f). After the abomination of pagan worship being performed in the Temple, and after the followers of Judas Maccabeus had defeated the occupation of the Greeks, the Temple needed to be cleansed so that right worship could be offered there once again. This was extremely important because worship goes to the very core of who we are as human beings, if we offer wrong worship, if we offer worship contrary to God’s directions, then we commit the gravest of sins – the worship of a false god or idolatry. So the Jews needed to restore their unique place of worship.

Christ our Lord was always hesitant about public declarations of Him being the Messiah. One of the reasons for this hesitancy was because He didn’t want to lead a rebellion like Judas Maccabeus had done. No doubt there were some very good reasons to fight off the Roman occupation, but this was after all a transitory issue. What Jesus had come to sort out was not the current issue but a perpetual issue – the issue that goes to the core of our souls – the issue of our sin. This was not to say that He wasn’t concerned about unjust regimes or other injustices, or indeed any other human problem, but they all have at their core the human problem caused by our sin. So what Jesus didn’t want to be caught up in was a military or political contest between the Jews and Romans. What He was interested in was restoring the human soul so that it could enter into a state of grace, and by entering into grace be able to enter into heaven. The restoration of the soul in grace would then result in good fruit in the world but more importantly radically improve the eternal future human beings can hope for.

As we know the Temple was cleansed by Jesus once more on Palm Sunday, but on that occasion He also pointed away from the Temple to His own self. The focus of true worship moved from the Old Covenant to the New. The worship now offered by God’s people is one centred on Jesus Christ. By Jesus’ perfect act of worship on the cross, the Son giving Himself totally to His Father, He enabled all human beings to be able to offer that perfect worship by identifying themselves with their Saviour. So it is that because we have been baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection (and if we are in a state of grace) then through Christ we can participate in that perfect act. That is why the Mass is the perfect act of worship and the perfect prayer – nothing else surpasses it.

So let us praise Christ for His inestimable gift of Himself in the Mass.

Fr Ian