By: Fr Christopher Maseko
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Today’s Gospel presents the episode in which Jesus drove out the merchants from the temple of Jerusalem. He did this gesture by helping himself with a whip of cords and flipped the tables, saying” You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” This decisive action carried out close to Passover, made a great impression on the crowd and aroused the hostility of the religious authorities. This action of Jesus was wholly different than His loving, gentle and kind previous actions. Perhaps, this has been our big question over the years. The temple has been the centre of spiritual power. The same time that believers are building temples to worship God, devil is trying to occupy them by religious people. The house of God is a house of prayer for all peoples. Unfortunately, the house of God had been changed into a den of thieves, and it was no longer a house of prayer.
Jesus Christ restores the dignity of the house of God by two actions. Firstly, he makes a whip and sends out the sellers and what they were selling. Secondly, identifying the destruction of the temple with his suffering, death and resurrection he says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” But how should we interpret the action of Jesus? Wasn’t there an element of violence? Certainly, it wasn’t a violent action. It didn’t provoke the action of the intervention of the guardians of the public order as would have been the case in our country, Eswatini. In the blink of an eye the Royal Eswatini police or even the Umbutfo Defence force would have been called to bring order for vandalism.
Surprisingly, the Jews who were present only asked him, “What sign have you to show us for this doing. Precisely, what authority do you have to do these things? In fact, the sign that Jesus will give, as proof of His authority, is His Death and Resurrection. For finishing his mission, He needed to attack devil’s headquarter. He knew attacking devil’s most important place costs death. And he knew sons of devil (religious leaders) will plan to kill him after that. So that was the important part of the mission of Jesus attacking temple and wait to be crucified. Only devil could crucify Jesus, however He had the power to take His life back after three days. John notes that, He spoke of the temple of his body. With Jesus’ Pasch a new worship begins, in new temple, the worship of love, and the new temple is Himself.
Our lives are the dwelling places of God. St Paul clearly teaches us: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit with you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own.” Being the dwelling places of God, our bodies are places of divine meeting with God. And Jesus exhorts us to live our lives seeking not our own advantage and interests, but for the glory of God who is love. There are so many horrendous things we do to our bodies, perhaps at the end it will be Jesus’ turn to ask us, “by whose authority are you doing this?” So that is why he exploded in indignation that time to shake us from this mortal danger. Moreover, faith is not a matter of convenience. We must be in love with God. We must be passionate about worship and prayer.
Jesus himself shows us how to be passionate. He speaks and acts boldly. The zeal of Jesus leads him to the cross. How much time do we spend in our meetings talking only about money and business? Is our heart like a market place, full of worries and anxieties? Is there any place left for God? May God offer us the grace to daily meet Him with worthy lives lived both physically and spiritually. And may he sustain us in our commitment to make Lent a good occasion to acknowledge God as the only Lord of our life, removing from our hearts and from our works every form of idolatry. And avail ourselves to the daily needs of our brothers and sisters without expecting anything in return or reward.