Homily preached by Br. Simeon vat Blaxland on Sunday 8th March 2015:
THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT. YR B.
Gospel: John 2:13-22
“Zeal for the Father's house”.
May I speak in the Name of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit . Amen.
Isn't the gospel account of Jesus cleansing the temple amazing? It stands in stark contrast to many popular notions of Jesus' character. Here is no picture of a gentle, soft-spoken Jesus calmly confronting the religious establishment with authoritative teaching and divine wisdom. Rather, here Jesus appears with His sleeves rolled up ready for a fight. After making His very own whip, He charges through the heart of the religious establishment striking forcefully and aggressively at a religious system that has become skewed. Imagine it! Jesus is opening pens and cages of oxen, sheep, and doves with one hand, while, with a whip of cords in the other hand, He is driving animals and people alike into confusion and retreat.
The temple is the focus of today’s Gospel. Whereas the Synoptic Gospels place Jesus’ cleansing of the temple immediately after his Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem, John places the event early in his Gospel, following Jesus’ first sign at Cana. While the synoptics recount only one climactic journey to Jerusalem, the Jesus of John’s Gospel makes several trips to the holy city.
Pilgrims to the temple were expected to make a donation for the upkeep and expenses of the edifice. Because Roman currency was considered “unclean,” Jewish visitors had to change their money into Jewish currency in order to make their temple gift. Money-changers, whose tables lined the outer courts of the temple, charged exorbitant fees for their service.
Visiting worshippers who wished to have a sacrifice offered on the temple altar would sometimes have to pay 15 to 20 times the market rate for animals purchased inside the temple. Vendors could count on the cooperation of the official temple “inspectors” who, as a matter of course, would reject as “unclean” or “imperfect” animals brought in from outside the temple.
Jesus’ angry toppling of the vendors’ booths and tables is a condemnation of the injustice and exploitation of the faithful in the name of God. So empty and meaningless has their worship become that God will establish a new “temple” in the resurrected body of the Christ.
Of course, the leaders and people do not appreciate the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words, nor did the people who witnessed his miracles understand the true nature of his Messianic mission. John’s closing observations in this reading, point to the fact that the full meaning of many of Jesus’ words and acts were understood only later, in the light of his resurrection.
In the temple precincts of our lives are “money changers” and connivers -- fear, ambition, addictions, selfishness, prejudice -- that distort the meaning of our lives and debase our relationships with God and with one another.
The action of Jesus in the Temple challenges our understanding of his character, our business ethics and our religious practices. He was not kind and gentle that day. He offended people by threatening their income, social status, and religious practices. He risked his life because a righteous anger burned within his soul.
The issues were too important. He could not accept a religion that oppressed people. He would not tolerate a faith that took advantage of others or one that excluded others. With the crack of a whip, he drove the money changers from the temple.
Lent is a time to invite the “anger” Jesus of today’s Gospel into our lives to drive out those things that make our lives less than what God created them to be. To raise one’s voice against injustice, to stand up before the powerful on behalf of the weak, to demand accountability of those who exploit and abuse others for their own gain is to imitate the “holy” anger of Christ.