CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Third Sunday of Lent: Body of Christ becomes the new temple

The house of prayer had been transformed into a market place during the time of Passover. Many pilgrims from distant countries to Jerusalem made sacrifices and renouncements for years to afford. Traders could accumulate more gains than throughout the rest of the years. It was difficult for the temple priests to resist the temptation to get into a so profitable turnover.
 
Upon seeing this, the emotions of Jesus are not referred to by any evangelist, but they are easy to understand, considering the reaction he had. 
 
Without saying a word, he began to furiously cast out all from the royal porch with a whip. He upended chairs, money, cages of doves. Then, without pausing, he went down the staircase, and took the moneychangers by surprise. He overturned their tables and threw down the coins.
 
John is the only one among the evangelists who notes that sheep and oxen were also driven out (v. 15).
 
The gesture of Jesus has decreed the end of religion related to the offering of animals. 
 
In the greatest proof of love that Jesus was going to give, the only sacrifice pleasing to the Father would be shown, the one, John would have said to the Christians of his community: “This is how we have known what love is; he gave his life for us, for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).
 
The gesture made by Jesus in the temple is amazing. From one who presented himself “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29), no one would have expected a similar reaction, almost unsettling. Why did he behave in this way? The explanation lies in the two sentences he uttered.
 
The first: “Take all this away, and stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace” (v.16). He was referring to an oracle of the prophet Zechariah who, after announcing the appearance of a completely renovated world in which the Lord would become king over all the earth, and the country would be transformed into a garden, concluded, “There will no longer be merchants in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 14:21).
 
By purifying the temple of the merchants, Jesus pronounced his severe, final sentence against mingling religion and money, between worshipping the Lord and economic interests. God expects only love from man and love is free. 
 
The most important teaching is, however, in the second sentence: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (v.19). He was not referring to more trade that took place in the sanctuary, but the inauguration of a new temple. The comment of the evangelist is a clarifier: “He was referring to the temple of his body” (v. 21).
 
The dramatic scene of the rending of the temple’s veil at the time of Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:51) would mark the end of all the holy spaces, of all places reserved to the encounter with God. 
 
It was the solemn declaration that the time of the separation between the sacred and the profane is over. Wherever one is, if they are in communion with Christ, they are united with God and can worship the Father.
 
Jesus’ gesture is not equivalent to a simple correction of abuses, but the announcement of the passing of the temple, regarded as a guarantee of the presence of God and salvation. One’s encounter with God would no longer be in a particular place, but in a new temple: the body of the risen Christ.
 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications
 
https://sundaycommentaries.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/3rd-sunday-of-lent-year-b-march-4-2018/
 
Translated by 
Father John Ladesma SDB