3rd Sunday of Lent B21
The Temple in Jerusalem was one of the most important symbols of the Jewish faith. It was the place where believers went to offer sacrifice and the place where God dwelt among his people. It was the place where every Jew dreamed of going at some time and, especially at Passover when they were required to be there if possible. For other Jews outside of Israel, it was a pilgrimage to make if they could afford it.
Can you imagine the noise and bustle at the Temple during Passover; caravans of people descending upon Jerusalem from all the villages and towns; the sheep and lambs bleating; the money changers and their clients arguing over the exchange rate of the common Roman coins and the Jewish coins that had to be used in the Temple because the Roman coins had the likeness of the emperor on one side and sometimes an image of a pagan god on the other. Not all people brought animals for sacrifice or the lambs to be eaten at the Passover meal, so there a need for people providing them at a price. Imagine the bargaining that went at high volume! And then Jesus showed up, irate and violent with justified anger with a whip of cords, creating a stampede of animals and merchants with coins being spilled and some on their hands and knees scrambling around and pocketing as much as they could.
The Temple officials and the guards challenged Jesus. His reply to them was misunderstood as the Gospel writer pointed out. “This Temple” was his body. That statement was a pivotal moment. He was indicating first that the time of fulfillment had come. There would be no need to sacrifice animals, no money changers, no more merchants. Now the Temple would become a house of prayer FOR ALL PEOPLE. Secondly, he identifies God as his Father giving him the right to act as he did. Now a person was a Temple, God’s presence among us.
We are God’s temple now. We are the Church, all us God’s presence to each other and the world; not St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome; not the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford; not the building we name St. John Fisher in Marlborough; not just the pope; not just the Roman Curia; not just the hierarchy; but, every one of us. Each of us is not just a member of the Church but together we are the Church.
During this Lent reflect on the dignity and the responsibility we have. Just as we try to keep the church building clean and well kept, let us keep the Church of ourselves clean through penance and shining bright through acts of mercy and charity.