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Why Have Church Buildings?

The Letter to the Hebrews states that God no longer dwells in temples made of stone (9:11, 24). Yet we Catholics have a Church that has magnificent buildings including tabernacles where we believe Jesus dwells. How can I respond to a Protestant acquaintance who questions me on this? The Bible points out that now we are the temple of God (2 Cor 6:16) and that Jesus Christ dwells in us. 

Similar statements occur in the Jewish Scriptures as well. After he finished constructing a beautiful temple in Jerusalem, Solomon acknowledged that God cannot be confined to any building made by humans (1 Kgs 8:27b). 

If, however, your understanding of those statements is correct, why did Jesus worship in the Temple in Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph (Lk 2:41–51)? Why did Simeon and Anna spend so much time there as we read in Luke 2:22–38? Why did Jesus worship there as an adult? 

God will always be “other” or beyond human control. This side of heaven, religious people need somewhere to worship, to hear the Scriptures proclaimed to God’s people, to pray for one another, and to pray to God. If we were angels (pure spirits), we wouldn’t need physical spaces for worship, but we aren’t and thus we do. 

We decorate churches as best we can, knowing that this needs to represent—not substitute for—lives that are morally good and progressively open wider to God’s grace. 


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