At the office of Matins today, Holy Church puts before our eyes the majestic temple built by King Solomon. This edifice, one of the wonders of the ancient world, was a prefiguration of the holy Catholic Church which would be established by the true Solomon, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and would extend its spiritual dominion to the ends of the earth. Solomon’s temple was later destroyed, and the chosen people taken into captivity as a punishment for their lack of fidelity to the covenant God had so mercifully ratified with them.
Today’s Mass sings of that Mercy of God, received in the midst of His Temple, that is, in the Church. It glorifies the Lord for building upon earth a temple to His glory, a city set on a mountain destined to be the light of the world.
Solomon and his temple prefigured not only the glory of the Church but also her trials. Throughout history, the Church has gone from rags to riches and back again several times. As Chesterton with his usual wit put it: “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave”.
But if it is fervour of spirit and devotion to God which bring prosperity to the Church, what is it that causes its demise? I suggest it is more often than not the same thing that caused the fall of Solomon: love of riches. This would seem to be confirmed by today’s Gospel in which we hear Our Lord, somewhat surprisingly, praise a crooked intendant for his dishonest dealings. The man was condemned to lose his job, so what did he do? He reduced the debts of his master’s debtors so that once removed from his post they would give him a warm welcome. Shrewd, treacherous, evil. Why then does the Lord praise him? Because he was smart. This steward does exactly what we should be doing: using the “mammon of iniquity”, that is, earthly possessions and money, to relieve those in need. If God gives us prosperity, we must put it in God’s bank, and God’s bank consists of the poor of this world.
If the Church had remembered this in every age, she may not have fallen into such hard times. Today the scandal of dioceses paying millions of dollars in court settlings causes outrage. Rightly so. But if those millions had been better used in the past, to relieve the needs of the poor, then perhaps we would have avoided the present scandals.
The prophet Ezechiel scorns Sodom: Look at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in their prosperity, and they gave no help to the poor and needy (Ez 16:49). Sated with food, complacent in their prosperity. And what happened? They ended up in the ignoble vice which brought down fire from heaven. The same thing happened to Solomon: his riches brought him wives, many of them. And they perverted his heart. Lust brought low that man whom Scripture tells us was the wisest of all who ever lived. So true it is that as long as we live in this world, we must be on our guard against the monster that lies hidden in the heart of everyone of us. It is for having failed to learn that lesson that the Church is saddened today by so much filth in her bosom.
Let’s take our cue from today’s liturgy and ask the Lord for the grace to be prudent administrators of the goods God gives us. If we have much, we must give much, for much will be required of us.
Then, and only then, can we hope that Mother Church will once again rise from the grave, and be the light on the mountain to which the nations converge, singing the praises of the Divine Majesty.