We all know people who probably would score very well on standard IQ tests, but when it comes to dealing with other people, they are as dumb as rocks. “Just goes to show,” we mutter to ourselves smugly, “That there’s more to life than how fast you can solve a math equation.”
In fact, several years ago, researchers began to identify a new factor in our psychological make-up that can determine how well we do in life. They called this factor Emotional Intelligence and created a new measure called the Emotional Intelligence Quotient or EQ to measure this intelligence. This intelligence involves the ability to perceive, assess or manage the emotions of oneself, others or groups of people. Unlike IQ, EQ can be increased by learning how to deal with your own emotions or those of others. Dale Carnegie, with his popular book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and his series of courses based on it probably made a mint off of this concept.
Today I’d like to identify a new factor in our psychological make-up that can determine how well we do in the next life. Let’s call it “Spiritual Intelligence.” Spiritual Intelligence is the ability to discern “spiritual value” over “material value”. We could easily make up a test that would measure your Spiritual Intelligence Quotient, or SQ, because Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament were mostly about this discernment of spiritual over material.
In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus is giving the disciples a teaching that combines this discernment with a prophecy about the end times. The disciples are admiring the temple, which from all reports of the time was an incredibly opulent building. Josephus, a Jewish historian at the time of Christ, describes it this way:
The whole of the outer works of the temple was in the highest degree worthy of admiration; for it was completely covered with gold plates, which when the sun was shining on them, glittered so dazzlingly that they blinded the eyes of the beholders not less than when one gazed at the sun’s rays themselves. And on the other sides, where there was no gold, the blocks of marble were of such a pure white that to strangers who had never previously seen them (from a distance they looked like a mountain of snow’” (v, 14), p. 534.
This temple was the 3rd temple built by the Jewish people and was, during the times of Jesus, still under construction. It was being built by Herod the Great and would be finished in 60 AD. Herod, by all we learn of him in the Bible, was not a particularly pious king. But he was filled with pride and arrogance. This temple was more a monument to HIS power and glory than God’s.
The disciples were from the very rural
However, just before the passages in today’s lesson, Jesus points out the contribution of the widow, who gave her few coins in offering, compared to the more showy donations of richer people. Because she gave from her heart, not holding back for fear of what the lack of her small savings might bring her, hunger or sickness with no money to pay the doctor, she demonstrated trust and faith in God. She showed a very high SQ.
So when the disciples start exclaiming over the opulence of the temple, Jesus warns them that the whole temple will be destroyed. “Not one stone will be left upon another,” he said. Jesus’ prediction came to pass in 70 AD, when the Roman army sacked the temple, literally pulling all the stones down to remove their gold plating and ornaments. Not one stone remained on another. As startling as this prediction was, the real message was far more startling. The disciples were not to put their faith in something that man had made for God, something with more material value than spiritual value. The kingdom that was coming was not one that would need a temple like this. The kingdom was to deal with the spiritual changes of the heart, not physical locations like buildings, cities or even countries. And, as usual, the disciples missed the whole point.
We see the same struggle going on in our day, our eternal tendency to choose style (or material) over substance (or spirit). One only need drive around the Metro Detroit area and look at the showy churches, the big crosses erected over them, the amount of glamour and style these churches put into their worship spaces and the amount of people who staff the worship team. Churches do this to attract members, because members give money and money pays for more renovations and more things to “attract” more members, which give more money and it goes on and on. Some churches have a coffee bar in the lobby so that worshippers can get that cappuccino before the service. Others have ATM machines in the lobby so that cash may be available to all who want to toss some money in the plate.
But if there is no substance, the substance being the true love of God and devotion to the mission of spreading the gospel, the mission that will bring persecution and danger into the lives of those who choose discipleship, these churches are no more holy places than the mall down the street. A church can be falling down, but if the love of God lives in the members and they continually seek to serve Him through spreading the gospel and showing God’s love through caring for the poor, both those who are poor in spirit and those who are poor in material things, then that church has a high SQ indeed.
Like EQ, we can change our SQ. We don’t need to study a lot of books or take a course titled, “How to Win Souls and Reject the Material.” All we need to do is listen for that still small voice of the Holy Spirit, the one who will give us the words to say when we are defending our faith, the one who can help us find the spiritual value of the choices we have available to us. St. Anthony of
O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive, into my mind that I may remember, and into my soul that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy. Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end. May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy. Amen.