Baubles for Jesus

Some friends and I were recently discussing how, although St. Peter’s Basilica and The Vatican are beautiful structures, the amount of ornamentation in each seems out of place for a religion focused on humility and helping the poor. The first time I attended a Mass at St. Peter’s, I couldn’t help but wonder if some amount of world hunger could be alleviated by selling all of the jewels the church contained. That may have been my young, idealistic mind at work, but even today it seems hard to reconcile with all of the wealth that can be found in some (but not all) Catholic churches.

The Basilica, in all its magnificent and ostentatious beauty

That is why today’s gospel caught my attention. It’s not that you shouldn’t have a beautiful structure in which to praise God; it’s that you don’t need excessive ornamentation to show God that you care.

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”
He answered,
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”