22.Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle B
Exodus 20:1-17; 1Cor 1:22-25; John 2:13-25
Bro. Naresh Chebathina (Bhopal)
“Take these things out of here! Stop making my father’s house as a market place.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, the readings of the third Sunday of the lent invite us to meditate on the theme, “right living and true worship.” It is the very call of being Christians. Jesus called his Apostles to be with him and send out to proclaim the kingdom of God. Jesus had an idea that by being with him or living with him they may know him and by going out they may bring people to God.
Even the purpose of the Ten Commandments is the same. The purpose of the Ten Commandments is to orient people towards God and his people. These Ten Commandments were addressed to the community which was newly liberated from slavery, So that they may not go after other gods. “You shall have no other gods before me,” Says the Lord, God.
The very purpose of Christian calling and the Ten Commandments is violated in today’s gospel passage. The temple of God which supposes to be orienting people towards God became a stumbling block because of some Jewish people and their activities. Jesus reacted to this situation saying, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my father’s house a market place.
Some scholars popularly interpreted this situation as an example of Jesus’ anger and hence his humanity. Jesus’ actions of taking the whip, herding out the animals, and overturning the tables are pointed to as evidence that Jesus could get angry. He did express his anger saying (Jn 2:16) take these things out of here! Stop making my father’s house a market place.
There were at least two reasons why Jesus acted as he did, and why anger was in his heart.
The first reason
He acted as he did because God’s house was being desecrated. In the temple, there was worship without reverence. Worship without reverence can be a terrible thing. It may be worship which does not realize the holiness of God. It may be worship in which leader or congregation is completely unprepared. It may be the true function of God’s house is forgotten. In the court of God’s house at Jerusalem, there would be arguments about prices, disputes about coins that were worn and thin, and the clatter of market place. The particular form of irreverence may not be common now, but there are other ways of offering an irreverent worship to God.
In our times showing irreverence can be said, when we receive the Holy Communion (body and blood of Christ) during Holy Eucharistic celebration without proper preparation. It may be not accepting our own body about which St. Paul speaks as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
The second reason why Jesus acted as he did. Mark has a curious little addition which none of the other gospels have; my House shall be called the house of prayer for all the nation Mk 11:17.” The temple consisted of a series of court leading into the temple proper and to the Holy place. All these buying and selling was going on in the court of the Gentiles, which was the only place into which a Gentile might come and beyond this they are not allowed. So then if there was a Gentile whose heart God had touched, he might come into the court of the Gentile to meditate and pray and distantly touch God. The court of the Gentiles was the only place of prayer he knew.
The temple authorities and the Jewish traders were making the court of the Gentiles into uproar and a rabble where no man could pray. There was lots of noise of birds, animals and bargaining which made prayer impossible. This business atmosphere shuts out the Gentiles who were seeking the presence of God. Jesus was moved to the depths of his heart because those who were seeking God were being shut out from his presence.
We too hear some times during Eucharistic celebration some voices like that of the gentile court. One may ask how can you hear, here we do not have animals or any business. But I say it is our mobile phone ring-tons which disturb the mood of the prayer in spite of many reminders by priest. One may have ring-ton as film song, birds singing, and animal’s sounds.
Is there anything in our church life- a snobbishness, exclusiveness, coldness, a lack of welcome, a tendency to make the congregation into a closed club, and arrogance, a fastidiousness which keeps the seeking of stranger out? Let us remember the wrath of Jesus against those who made it difficult and even impossible for the seeking stranger to make contact with God.
What was the response of the Apostles those who are passive on occasion? Though the disciples were passive on the occasion but they understood the mission of Christ on the Pentecost. St. Paul who had unique encounter of Jesus Christ, as we heard in the second reading, he teaches to the people of his time about the power of crucified Christ. Jewish who were looking for signs and Greeks who were longing for wisdom were answered by Paul. What by human standards seems foolish and weak is in reality supreme wisdom and power. Such is the great paradox of God’s dealings with people. This is foolishness to the people but for those who God calls, He is the highest wisdom and the divinely chosen means to bring people to salvation or to God.
In our society we find more of individualistic personalities who have no time to spend with God or their own families. They go behind the things like; longing for money, power, position, and sex that lead them away from God. Let us ask one’s own self what is my tendency? What is our contribution or responsibility to the society that we live in and move? Am I orienting people towards God or leading them away from God? Knowingly or unknowingly we might have become a stumbling block to the people in reaching God. Let us repent, cleanse our being (person) – a temple of God – desecrated by our unholy activities. Let us return to Christ crucified for mercy and compassion and become worthy temple for God to live in.