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Center for Action and Contemplation
Freedom from Shame
Freedom from Shame

We Are Temples of God 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Father Richard shares how St. Paul spread Jesus’ message of equality and human dignity through the power of the Holy Spirit:  

Saint Paul gives us a basis for loving all others as Christ has loved us. Paul offers a theological and solid foundation for human dignity and human flourishing that is inherent, universal, and indestructible by any evaluation, whether it be race, religion, gender, nationality, class, education, or social position. We now believe the reason this one man enjoyed such immense success in such a short time is that he gave human dignity back to a world that had largely lost it. One more god in Greece and Asia Minor would have meant little, but when Paul told shamed populations they were temples of the divine, this made hearts burn with desire and hope.  

The account of Pentecost in Acts 2:1–11 emphasizes that people from all over the world heard the Galileans speaking in the pilgrims’ individual languages after the descent of heavenly fire and wind. The theological message is clear: God loves everyone! God’s love and favor are both totally democratic and unmerited. This was meant to be the end of all exclusive and elitist religion. Sadly, it did not last long.  

One of the reasons Paul’s teachings had so much influence in Asia Minor was that he restored human dignity at a time when the region was a key source of enslaved people, women were considered the property of men, temple prostitution was a form of worship, and oppression and injustice toward poor and marginalized people were universal norms. Most of the world was not yet aware that human rights even existed. Paul shouts into this corrupt and corrupting empire, “One and the same Spirit was given to us all to drink!” (1 Corinthians 12:13). He utterly levels the playing field: “You, all of you, are sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus … where there is no distinction between male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26–28).  

This is quite amazing, considering the divided world at the time! In Paul’s estimation, the old world was forever gone, and a new world was born. This was surely impossible and frightening to some people, but utterly attractive and hopeful to the majority who had been given no dignity whatsoever. Who does not want to be told they are worthy and good? Who does not want their social shame taken away? No longer was the human body a cheap thing, degraded by slavery, or sexual, verbal, and physical abuse. Paul is saying, “You are the very temple of God.” Scholars now believe this is Paul’s supreme and organizing idea. Such an unexpected affirmation of human dignity began to turn the whole Roman Empire around.  


Adapted from Richard Rohr, Essential Teachings on Love, selected by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 90–92. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Exercise in Grief and Lamentation credits from left to right: Unknown, Jessie Jones, Jennifer Tompos. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise. 

Story from Our Community:  

The “mode of weeping” devotional has given meaning to what I’ve been going through these past seven months since my husband passed away. I’ve wept deeply and quite often repeatedly said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I’ve felt everything expressed in this quote from the devotional, “it’s an inner attitude where when I can’t fix it, when I can’t explain it, when I can’t control it, when I can’t even understand it, I can only forgive it. Let go of it, weep over it. It’s a different mode of being.” I wouldn’t have understood it either without going through it as I am now. But Jesus is faithful when he says he will comfort those who mourn. —Caroline M.  

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