Jesus was sad and that grief led to anger.
The Temple in Jerusalem (the center of not only worship but of life itself) had been turned into for all intents and purposes a shopping mall. Worse yet, the scoundrels selling animals to be sacrificed in the Temple were overcharging the poor and pilgrims from out of town who were there to just to pray and meet God.
This is was also His Father’s house. It was a beyond a moral outrage. The Temple was desecrated. The only thing he could do was to drive them out.
And at the same time teach them…and all of us two lessons. The first lesson is that sacred lands, places and buildings should be respected and they should be places where people from all walks of life should feel safe and welcomed.
The second lesson, and the most important, is the most beautiful and holy Temples on earth are actually people. The greatest Temple, of course, is Jesus himself. By his coming into this world has a human being like you and me he was just like us in all ways except for sin. By becoming a human being and sharing in our human likeness he made us all temples (dwellings for His Father).
Therefore, we should all get angry like he did when any human temple is desecrated or not respected.
We Christians call our temples churches. I’ve been in many beautiful churches around the world. Some were quite large and very ornate others were quite small and simple All of them holy in their own way and you can feel the presence of God in all of them.
Yet, one of my favorite temples in the world is called Grace. Grace is really a person. Her parents are my friends, Keith and Sarah Wojtaszek.
In May of 2008 Sarah took a pregnancy test and it was positive. She was overjoyed and immediately shared the wonderful news with her husband Keith. She felt great, no morning sickness, and no food aversions. she hardly knew anything was different.
August came and it was time for the ultrasound. Time to see their baby and find out if they were having a girl or a boy. At the appointment the ultrasound tech placed the ultrasound wand on her belly. Soon after, she got up and ran out of the room and returned with the doctor.
The baby was diagnosed with anencephaly: a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. The baby had no possible chance of surviving after being born.
Sarah didn’t remember the words just all the feelings. She remembers physically getting sick and vomiting into the garbage can. This can’t be happening and they must be wrong. Sarah could not stop crying. She wanted “it” out of her body.
The next day they contacted a doctor that preformed late term abortions and scheduled the termination for the following Tuesday. Sarah wanted to name the baby, have a funeral, and all the special things to honor this little life that had forever changed her.
She and Keith prayed, talked, read the bible and cried. Keith had also been reading the daily scriptures for mass for the days leading up to that Tuesday appointment, including the reading for that day. Matthew 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me.”
That right there made them stop and realize they could not keep that Tuesday appointment.
They carried on with the pregnancy with a lot of love and support from family and friends and lots of prayer.
They even joined a support group sponsored by a perinatal hospice group which that gave them much support and courage and only confirmed for them that they made the right decision.
On December 2nd, 2008 at 7:56 am, Grace Anne Wojtaszek, was born. Like almost every normal baby Grace screamed as she entered the world. Keith and Sarah were able to hold Grace. Keith remembers her perfect little fingers and toes, grasping his finger.
Five hours later she passed away. Since then Keith and Sarah have been blessed with two more children, two daughters who are healthy and happy. Yet, the painful memories of losing their child still lingered.
They had a choice. They could remain grief stricken and angry over what happened to them, or, they can use their pain, grief and anger to do something positive in memory of Grace.
They chose the latter. Remembering the wonderful and loving support they received from the hospice during their pregnancy they have formed their own perinatal hospice. Their mission is to give parents and families who have experienced infant loss everything they need to get through their pain, grief and anger.
They’ve named it Healing Grace. Their motto is, “No life too small.”
The physical body of Grace Anne Wojtaszek may have been on this earth for five hours but her Temple will live on for many years more and will help many people.
This gospel reading reminds us that all people are individual temples of God’s presence on earth…each unique in its own way…no matter how big or small.
No matter how big or how small each Temple can be instruments of God’s love, comfort and healing. Which is the definition of GRACE!