Pope Francis has frequently said that God is a God of surprises. We certainly see that in the recent daily Mass readings from the Book of Ezra (1:1-6 yesterday). Who would have thought that the pagan ruler of Persia Cyrus would allow the exiled Israelites to return to their homeland after seventy years? Not those people who in exile all those years! And who would have thought that God would speak to Cyrus and inspire him to commission those returning exiles to build "the house of God in Jerusalem?" Even more, who would have thought that the pagan people with whom the Israelites lived during those years of exile would give "them help in every way, with silver, gold, goods and cattle, and with many precious gifts besides...?" Yes, God is full of surprises and can do surprising things in our lives.
In today's first reading from Ezra (6: 7-8, 12, 14-20), God surprises us again by inspiring another pagan king, Darius, successor to Cyrus, to continue his predecessor's policy of rebuilding the temple and even taxing some of his other subjects to provide funds for the project. Finally, the temple is finished and solemnly dedicated for worship.
I've only seen the dedication of one Catholic church, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. I'll always remember Archbishop Timothy Dolan ascending a ladder close to
where I was seated to anoint one of the four walls of the new church with sacred chrism. Thus was that space consecrated for a sacred purpose, for worship. Then the altar was anointed with sacred chrism, dedicating it for a sacred purpose. Sacred chrism was also used to anoint my hands when I was ordained thirty years ago, dedicating them for a sacred purpose, for worship. Thus were our heads anointed with sacred chrism at our baptism and confirmation, consecrating us for the sacred purpose of worship.
All of the baptized are sealed with the sacred chrism and consecrated for worship. All of us are temples of God. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist. At the end of Mass we are sent forth: Go! Be the temple that you were consecrated to be! Let others find Christ in you!