Don’t mistake an imitation for the real thing. There never seems to be a good use for the word “fake.” We do not like people to be fake. We do not usually consider “fake” food as good as the real stuff. We can look at a picture that seems to be too good to be true, and conclude it is fake. Even #alexfromtarget originally thought the picture of him that made him an internet star and put him on the Ellen show thought the picture of him was fake. It was too good to be true.
And yet there are times when trying to make an imitation of something is a good thing. There are wiffle ball tournaments to benefit a foundation named for former BU hockey player Travis Roy, whose college career was only eleven seconds before a check left him paralyzed. The wiffle ball tournaments are played on two replica fields: Little Fenway and Little Wrigley. An imitation that is made and looks very much like the original can be treasured. Churches too can be made as imitations of more famous structures.
And I thought of imitations when I read today’s gospel. The disciples are admiring the beauty of the Temple. But Jesus reminds them that the Temple is an imitation of the real Temple which is in heaven. Jesus warns them not to confuse the Temple here on earth, as beautiful as it is, with the true Temple in heaven.
We are warned about this because we can be taken in by such things. We can confuse the lesser for the greater. It is important for us to keep this in perspective when we think of the beauty of church buildings. While they serve to remind us of heaven, we cannot confuse their beauty with the object they are supposed to remind us about. A church building is designed to help us to raise our minds, hearts and souls to heaven, which helps us to see how we can live out God’s will here on earth. But it is not heaven.
Yet when we are in church, there are some things that not only cause us to think of God, but they are in fact God. This is why things can get confusing. We surround ourselves with beautiful things in churches because we receive the most beautiful thing – the Eucharist, the person of Jesus Christ himself. In the moment of the liturgy, heaven touches earth, and we are not only given an object to remind us of what awaits us, but we are actually recipients of Jesus himself.
The same is true with other items of art we may have in our homes. Statues, medals and similar devotional items are not God. They are not even the saints they represent. They are to point our minds, hearts and souls to God. But they themselves are not God. They serve to remind us that there is something greater than what we see here on earth.
Other people serve the same invitation to recall the greatness of God, since all humans are made in God’s image and likeness. So today consider everything you see as an opportunity to think about God and his invitation to holiness.