Imprisoned By An Illusion: A reflection by Fr. Frank Conroy

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Rey Spadoni

The temple complex in Jerusalem was a wonder of the ancient world. Around the year 20 BC, Herod the Great began to enlarge the area around the temple but not the temple itself. The work was not finished until the mid-60’s of the 1st century, a few years before the first Jewish revolt against Rome was mercilessly crushed by the brutally efficient Roman Legion. Jerusalem and the temple were totally destroyed. Thousands had worked on Herod’s project. The retaining walls towered eighty feet and the foundation reached fifty feet below street level. The walls were gigantic. The exterior of the temple was adorned with so much gold that, when the sun shone on it, it virtually blinded onlookers. The temple and its setting were an engineering and architectural wonder of the ancient world. We read that Jesus looked at the temple and said to those who were commenting on its magnificence,

…the day will come when not one stone will be left on another, but it will all be torn down.

Forty years later this dire prediction was frightfully realized.

There is something in us that is always trying to build a lasting place. We forget that all things are passing. Perhaps the people of other centuries were more aware of its passing – they encountered death suddenly, often, and close. Our world seems to shield itself from death. Death is often shunted to the side as if it was an intrusion.

If we spend our life trying to build a permanent home, we are imprisoned by an illusion. On the other hand, if we realize that all is passing, we will be freed to do the important things without being possessed by them. This is not the thinly veiled despair of eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die. It is the hope-filled existence of one who is on a pilgrimage that requires endless leave-taking and the conscious effort to travel light.

Followers of Christ focus on the goal of the journey – they focus on eternal life. The Eucharist sustains them on their way. They pray they will not become lost. They listen to Christ and hear the call to leave everything behind – the bad certainly, but even the good – leave everything behind so as to move toward the goal. The goal is union with God. Everything not of God must be let go. This will require continual conversion.

We are all busy. We raise a family, we go to school, we go to work, we serve a parish – what have you? These are of course important and must be done. However, a perspective is gained if we keep in mind Jesus’ words.

…the day will come when not one stone will be left on another, but it will all be torn down.

I like the proverb that tells us, The boat sails by, the shore remains. To know that the shore remains frees us to live in peace. May that peace be found in our life. May we all reach that eternal shore.

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Note: Thank you to blog reader, Karen, for connecting us with Fr. Frank Conroy and thank you to Fr. Frank for your inspiring and insightful words.

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