EXODUS 20:1-17; PSALM 19; 1CORINTHIANS 1:22-25; JOHN 2:13-25
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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai- The Cleansing of our bodies.
Fr. Paul Oredipe: FAITH – The Cleansing of the Temple – We are Temples of God
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:
The Cleansing of our bodies.
The Liturgy of today offers us the opportunity to reflect on the Temple of the Lord. Jesus says “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up”. While the temple certainly has a history and integrity of its own, it was created by extension of the tabernacle and is associated with such diverse topics as a mountain and a city, the cosmos and a person’s body, and God’s glory and name. So when Jesus says “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” he was referring to his body. The Jews could not understand this. They rather preoccupied their minds with the number of years it took them to build the Temple which explains their literal-mindedness. St. Paul says in the second reading of today that we must stop reasoning like the “Jews” demanding signs! Today, we are still much literal-minded about our faith. We are moved by our senses; we don’t see things from deeper wisdom. We pursue signs because we are surface Christians. The Bible says those who are spiritually minded will live.
When he drove them out he used the words “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”. In speaking of a “house of prayer” and a “den of thieves” Jesus cited two passages from the Old Testament: In Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. In the first part – Is. 56:7 God says, “These [faithful foreigners] I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Twice in this verse, God’s temple is called “a house of prayer.” Therefore, God’s design was for His house in Jerusalem to be a gathering place for worshipers from all nations, a place where prayers would rise like incense from the hearts of the faithful to the presence of the living God.
In the Second part – Jer.7:11 God says “Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! Declares the Lord.” The prophet Jeremiah was rebuking the temple leaders for their abuses. Even as they continued going through the motions of their religion, they were oppressing the needy and violently taking what was not theirs. This was exactly what was happening in the temple in today’s gospel.
Beloved, these abuses have not stopped – more than ever before there are more and more abuses in the Temple of God. Apart from immodest and indecent dressing today; apart from wrong use of phones, social networks and other noises in the house of God there are sacramental indiscipline and sacrilegious practices. Others do not only abuse the temple but also the name of God. There are those who use God’s name in vein, those who have taken to black magic and occult power and disguise in the name of God as and prophets. More so, there is also the abuse of the Body – the temple of God now the temple of the devil; due to immorality, theft, pride, anger and envy. Beloved, we must rise in holy passion and make ourselves clean once more. Let us be moved by a holy zeal to restore sanity back to the church and our body. Jesus cleansed the temple we must clean our bodies. On the other hand we must not confuse these abuses with Bazaar sales; a charitable means to raise money for the Church’s physical and spiritual development not the individual’s development. So the intention of an act makes that act moral or immoral.
We also reminded today that we must correct faults irrespective of its victim. In the first reading we were given the Christian code of living. Anyone living outside the details of this code should be corrected. The world is this way today because we tolerate evil a lot. We conceal and adapted to earthly pattern. We relegated the original spirit of the founder who wants us saved. Often times we tolerate the profanation of the Temple of God through various means. Beloved, we need men and women who will be moved by the “Zeal of Jesus” and declare these ills in the Church today as unacceptable.
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
The Cleansing of the Temple – We are Temples of God
What kind of God do you worship? What kind of Jesus do you believe in?
These questions are necessary for us at this time of Lent. We need to ask ourselves these questions, especially in view of the Gospel passage of today. For some, Jesus was radical, for others He is violent, for a few more, He is strict. Whatever you may say, one thing is clear. You cannot serve two masters. As the scripture teaches further, where you treasure is, there will your heart be as well.
For the Jews, the two most sacred institutions were the Law and the Temple. Both were God’s own idea. Law is good, it is necessary; without it, every human institution is the prey of anarchy and destruction. So, too, the Temple was good. It was the very focal point of Hebrew life and religion. It was the dwelling-place of God’s glory. These two ideas and facts give focus to our readings today – Law and the Temple.
The giving of the commandments by the Lord to Moses on Mount Sinai (our first reading) signalled the birth of Israel as a nation. For the Jewish people, obeying the commandments in daily living was not considered as doing what was right, but was seen as living out a relationship with a real personal God – based on a covenant, not contract (that is, out of love and trust). To keep the commandments, for the Jews, was to respond in love to the wisdom of God who had bound Himself to his people. They viewed the commandments as the very wisdom of God shared with them as a gift – an invitation to behave like God and not just a test of their obedience.
Now to the Temple: The Passover was the greatest of the Jewish feasts. The law laid it down that every adult male Jew who lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem was bound to attend it. That is why we heard of Jesus going along with his parents to the temple when He got lost and was seen three days later (the 4th joyful mystery). At such going to the temple, one can imagine the large number of people.
In this practice, there was a tax that every Jew over nineteen years of age must pay – the Temple Tax – so that the temple sacrifices and ritual might be carried out day by day. This tax had to be paid in a particular currency (Galilaean shekels or shekels of the sanctuary) – these were Jewish coins, and so could be used as a gift to the Temple. The other currencies were foreign and so were unclean. They might be used to pay ordinary debts, but not a debt to God. This is how the money changers got to the temple – to exchange people’s money for temple coins, as only temple coins could be used in the temple.
But much more than that, the money changers were charging a very high sum of money (exorbitant rate) as interests, gains and discounts.
In addition to that, the money changers were also the sellers of cattle, oxen, pigeons, sheep and doves. Of course, people make sacrifices in the temple. Not only that, the law was that any animal offered in sacrifice must be perfect and unblemished. As such, there was an inspection (by person appointed by the temple authorities) to examine the victims which were to be offered. One can then imagine that any victims bought outside the temple were rejected after examination. Then there is the issue that the prices of the animals in the temple will be higher than those in the open market outside. Not just that, there was also a fee for this inspection. This was very high indeed.
All these put together move Jesus to dissatisfaction. He could not condone such rampart and shameless social injustice – and worse still, it was done in the name of religion. Jesus saw that things were not right. He saw that the hearts of the sellers and the money changers were consumed with love of money, not love of God. They were not serving the people by helping them to worship God, but instead were taking advantage of them.
The heart of Jesus had only one desire – to love, honour and glorify His Heavenly Father. This was His passion, His zeal. Everything He did was for His Father, for His Glory. The temple, the Holy Place for all Jews, was where the Father should be glorified. It was a Sacred Place, made Holy by the presence of God. Nothing should pollute its sacredness. All should be done for the glory of God. Jesus made a whip and drove them all out because their hearts were not giving glory to God. Jesus cleanses the temple.
In cleansing the temple, Jesus shows great reverence for the House of God and leaves us an example of how we should respect our own places of worship and look upon them as Sanctuaries of genuine prayer. The temple was not better than a noisy market – place of buyers and sellers. The traders were guilty of using God’s dwelling for their own selfish purposes of making money. All their commotion showed little regard for the spirit of true worship.
Perhaps, we too today can ask ourselves: how do I regard and behave in the house of God? What is my attitude towards it and in it? Do we even realise that we too are temples of God?
“Did you not realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16 – 17) And again: “Do you not realise that your body is temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God? You are not your own property, then; you have been bought at a price. So, use your body for the glory of God.” (1 Cor 6: 19-20) Read also vss 12-18.
Jesus taught us to stand up for what we believe in – courage for our convictions. Can we imitate His courage and boldness in the temples of our own lives?
Our hearts need cleansing. We should be given over to the love of God, to the worship and service of the Holy One. We should recognise the sacredness and holiness of the things of God and not pollute them by holding them in contempt or indifference or by using them for our own gratification or self-glory. For example, our service in the Church in whatever capacity, should be pure and done only for the glory of God, not to give us status and position nor so that others might admire us for our goodness.
The Jews believed that God lived in the temple of Jerusalem, hence they always went there to offer sacrifices. They believed that God always enjoys the scent of incense and likes the blood of victims.
Jesus now says that this type of belief is over. God will soon build a new temple where one acceptable sacrifice will be offered. The new temple is not our churches or chapels made of stone or mud-bricks. God does not need this type of dwelling, as He never needed the beautifully built temple of Jerusalem.
“Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up”. In the light of His resurrection, we can understand the sign that He gave the Jews. Jesus rose from the dead in His glorified body. He is the new temple. Hence the tearing into two of the temple veins at the moment of Christ’s death, signifying the end of the old, foreshadow, image temple and heralding the beginning of the new temple.
In fact, the old temple was destroyed in AD 70. God’s presence is now manifested in the Christ-temple. By raising His Son from the dead, the Father has laid the foundation and cornerstone of this new holy place. Together they (we) make up the body of Christ, the new temple where God now lives.
With Christ and in Christ we are the temple of God. All who are in Christ – in the Christ-temple – are made holy by the power of Christ’s Spirit. By the same Spirit we become living stones in the new temple (1 Peter 2:5) and temples of Christ’s Spirit (2 Cor. 6:16).
“Anyone who love me will keep my word and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make a home in him” John 14:23
May that Spirit remain and abide with us now and forever. Amen.