Do you know that when you are in a state of grace, you are a temple of God? Think about that for moment. When you were baptized, God came to dwell in you soul. Unless, God forbid, you have expelled His presence by mortal sin, God is in you. Right now. Wherever you are. At every moment. Isn't that amazing?
St. Paul reminds us of this wonderful truth in today's Second Reading from 1 Corinthians 3:16-23. He also gives us a rather stern warning to remind us of our obligations as temples of God: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person...”
Most people probably see this statement as a caution against suicide, the literal destruction of the body. It is true that suicide is objectively a grave sin. (Please note: We cannot judge the culpability of those who commit suicide, for mitigating factors are almost always involved. Only God can judge people's hearts.)
There are other ways, however, in which we can destroy God's temple. Sin, for instance, does a good job. Mortal sin, as we have already said, expels God's presence of a person's soul. This grave sin, committed with full knowledge of its gravity and full, free consent despite that knowledge, makes the temple of the soul empty. An empty temple is really no temple at all.
Even less serious, or venial, sins can chip away at our temples, staining our souls; weakening our faith and resolve to live as our indwelling God wills; and perhaps even paving the way to more serious sin.
Let's talk about the second half of the warning: “...God will destroy that person...” That sounds a little scary actually. We might envision lightning bolts cast down from Heaven at us. This isn't what Paul means, however. Actually, the person who destroys God's temple doesn't really need any help from God in destroying himself or herself. That person is well on the way to self-destruction. Chasing God out of one's life can, without repentance, lead to ultimate destruction, an eternity in hell.
Now, God does not send anyone to hell. He simply recognizes a person's free choice. If a person freely chooses to expel God from his or her soul, God will not force His way back in. He will politely wait until He is invited through repentance and confession. If the person never invites Him, then he or she will be separated from God for all eternity. That absence of God...that is the true nature of hell...that is true destruction.
All this being said, we would do well this week to spend some time meditating on Paul's reminder that we are temples of God and his warning that we must be careful and committed to never destroying those temples.