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Besieged: Weekly Message for 09-27-2022
Dear Friends in Christ,
This week in 70 A.D., according to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus in his work, Wars of the Jews, the Romans breached the upper walls of Jerusalem, ending a siege and the Roman response to what later became called the First Jewish Revolt (cf. Josephus, Wars of the Jews VI,435 and here). The Romans then razed the city to the ground, including the Second Temple, and almost all of the city, except the Western Wall of the temple, which still stands today in Jerusalem as the Wailing Wall.
In Rome you can see the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forums, near the Colosseum, with friezes depicting Roman soldiers carrying off a menorah and other items from the temple as booty. This was a turning point for Christians and Jews. The Lord had foretold this calamity was coming and told the Christians to flee and not defend the city (cf. Luke 13:34-35, 19:43, 21:5-6, 21:20-24; Matthew 24:15-21; Mark 13:14-17). From this point onward the Jews did not see the Christians as just another Jewish sect, and, soon after, neither did the Romans, precipitating the Roman persecution of Christians in the empire.
The Zealots, who had instigated the revolt that eventually led to Jerusalem’s destruction, were crushed. The Sadducees, temple priests who had been co-conspirators in the death of Our Lord, priests of the temple, ceased to exist. The Pharisees smuggled their leader out of the city in a casket to negotiate with the Romans and explain that they only wished to meditate on Scripture. They were spared and relocated to Jamnia in central Israel. The destruction of the Second Temple is commemorated even today by the Jews during the fast known as Tisha be-Av at the start of August.
I’ve visited the Arch of Titus and explain what it commemorates to Catholic pilgrims, and I’ve prayed at the Wailing Wail on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in early 2019. As I prayed before the wall, I placed my palm on the ancient stone and looked at all the prayer notes stuffed into every nook and cranny, and I thanked the Lord for having been present among his people in that temple.
We too are temples of the Lord, as St. Paul teaches us (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20). The Holy Spirit dwells in us, and when we expel the Lord through grave sin, the Holy Spirit continues to work in our soul toward reconciliation, despite our resistance. The Roman empire is gone, but the People of God, the Church, endures because, “If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:17). There are two sides to a wall, and it can be besieged from either side: we too can knock down our walls and let our enemies conquer us.
The world will try to lay siege to our temple, but we do not withstand the siege alone, assuming we defend with the right weapons: prayer, a virtuous life, and the sacraments. We must keep our defenses strong by praying about the sources of temptation in our lives that can be weak spots the enemy seeks to exploit and patching up the weak points.
May the Lord help you keep the defenses of your temple strong.
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
Author Maximizing the Mass