Exodus 20: 1 – 17
Responsorial Psalm: 19
1 Corinthians 1.18, 22 – 25
John 2. 13 – 25

Christ arrives at the Jerusalem Temple for the Passover. The temple was under construction for almost half a century. To gain admission into the temple one had to pay half a shocked. To gain admission into the temple one had to pay half a shekel. That was a big sum amounting to two day’s wages. That amount did not bother Jesus. What did disturb Jesus that day was this: if you were a Jew coming for the Passover from Rome, your money would be in liras. They were unacceptable at the temple. So, you had to convert them into shekels with the temple money changers. The bankers in this context were bandits. This was theft in name of religion. St. John’s tells us in graphic language what happened. So Jesus did not hesitate to resort to physical violence at the sight of people being abused. The house-cleaning Jesus’ image is the different from the gentle and compassionate Jesus we know.

Does your heart need a cleanup? Does your heart need the attention of the Master Cleaner?

If the Lord came to do an inspection of your heart what is he going to find? Is he going to find anger, bitterness , hatred, lust, immortality, lack of forgiveness, indulgence, or compromise? You may think it is hidden, but your heart is not hidden from God?

We might certainly need a clean-up. Perhaps you have had a spiritual experience, but since then, it has been back to mess again. In many ways we probably are polluted again and it is time for a spring cleaning.

Psychologists tell us that, apart from the death of a loved one, perhaps the most traumatic experience a person can have is that of moving house. Those of us who have gone through all that is involved in this particular trauma can attest to the truth contained in these words. One of the benefits derived from the exercise, however, is that we get rid of all the junk we have accumulated since our last move. It could perhaps be argued that people’s dread of moving is directly proportionate to the amount of stuff” they have gathered. The Israelites, having come out of Egypt, had been through the experience, and were inclined to avoid too much clutter. Today we find Jesus clearing all the accumulated junk out of the Temple. But what is happening here is not merely the removal of unwanted items; by this symbolic act, Jesus is calling all the peoples of the earth to worship God “in spirit and in truth.” True worshippers, he will tell us later in the gospel, are those who worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
Worship is not a word which figures largely in our religious vocabulary today. Like “adoration,” it is a particularly God-centred word, ill-suited to be our self-centred age where religiousness is more often expressed in terms of self-actualization. There is a sense in which it is true to say that people today have forgotten how to worship, so that often even our liturgical acts become simply gatherings or experiences. To worship means to acknowledge the transcendence of God, and his claim on us as our creator, and to respond appropriately. Rather than being just a relic of primitive religion, worship is an integral part of the Judeo-Christian religious sense. From deep within our self springs the desire to worship and adore God. Getting in tune with that desire, and expressing it through word and gesture is at the heart of prayer.
In order to worship in spirit and in truth, we must prepare our hearts and minds by being faithful to the covenant relationship (keeping the commandments) and seeking the wisdom of God, which is the wisdom of the cross. We have to let Jesus cleanse us, as he cleansed the Temple, leave our sins behind, and simplify our lives, getting rid of any needless clutter. Then we are able to enter into the new Temple, which is Jesus himself, praying in and through him.
When the side of Jesus was pierced on Calvary, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The place of worship is no longer the Temple in Jerusalem; now, it is through the pierced side of Christ that we have “access to the Father in the one Spirit.” So it is that, after the resurrection, Thomas will place his hand in Jesus’s side and worship, saying, “My Lord and my God,” as today’s gospel tells us: “When Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered and believed. If we are to properly worship God, we must leave behind everything that gets in the way, then enter into that secret chamber which is the side of Christ, and there worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
Jesus was aware of the huge religious and political significance of the temple in his day, and yet he challenged it, and he challenged those responsible for it, because he recognized that the temple was not in fact serving God’s purposes. As Jesus says in today’s gospel reading, ‘Stop turning my Father’s house into a market’. There is a big difference between a house and a market. A house has the potential at least to be a home. A market could never really be a home; people go to markets to buy and sell. Buying and selling are not activities you associate with home. The temple was to be God’s house, God’s home, a place where all people could feel at home in God’s presence. The activities associated with the market were preventing the temple from being the home that God wanted it to be, a spiritual home for all the nations. Jesus saw that here was an institution in need of reform.
Jesus didn’t condemn the merchants, only their business practice. Jesus attacks the behavior, not the person.
This is a lesson for us today. The size of a man may be measured by the size of the things that make him angry. How true that is! To become upset and infuriated over trivial matters gives evidence of childishness and immaturity in a person.
King Solomon declared: “It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to win control over yourself than over whole cities” (Proverbs 16: 32). We are constantly exposed to irritations as we mingle with others, and even when we are alone. How we react to these irritations is a reflection of our personalities and temperaments.
In our families, situations may arise that could cause irritations. It is then that parents must be calm and exemplary. The man with an uncontrolled temper is like an undisciplined child – he expresses his emotions explosively, and disregards the feelings of those about him.
In the home, anger should be controlled and love should abound. When, in his most impressionable years a child experiences ugly situations that result from uncontrolled tempers, when he hears unkind words exchanged between his father and mother, and when he sees contention crowd out an atmosphere of kindness and mutual respect – when these conditions make a child’s environment, what chance has he to become refined and noble?
Jesus set the example in personal conduct regarding anger when, although he had been falsely accused and made the subject of railings and mockery, he stood majestically and completely composed before the perplexed Pontius Pilate. He did not retaliate in anger. Rather, he stood erect, poised, unmoved. His conduct was divine. What an example for all of us!
Every institution, including every religious institution, is always in need of reform. The church, in so far as it is a human institution, is in need of ongoing reform. The church exists to serve the purposes of God, the purposes of God’s Son, in the world. However, inevitably, because the church is composed of human beings, it can also serve as a block to God’s purposes. The church is called to be the sacrament of Christ, to reveal the powerful and life-giving presence of Christ to the world. However, invariably, it will often hide Christ or revealed a distorted image of Christ to the world, one that is not fully in keeping with the gospels. In the 2nd Reading, Paul sets God’s wisdom over against human wisdom, God’s power over against human strength. The church can sometimes substitute God’s wisdom with human wisdom, God’s power with human strength. Just as in the gospel reading Jesus wanted to purify the temple, the risen Lord is constantly working to purify the church. All of us who make up the church need to be open to his purifying presence. In the works of the book of Revelation, we need to be listening to what the Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Lord, is saying to us the church. We are all called to listen to the challenging word of the Spirit and to be open to the purifying presence of the risen Lord. We are all the church, and we all have our part to play in ensuring that the church is what the Lord intends it to be. Lent in particular is a time when we try to listen to what the Spirit may be saying to us about our lives; it is a time when as individuals and as a community we are called to allow the Spirit to renew our lives so that we conform more fully to the image and likeness of Christ.
The fiery Jesus of the gospel reading who is passionate about what God wants remains alive and active at the heart of the church today. The relationship between the Lord and the church, between the Lord and each one of us, will always be marked by a certain tension, because the Lord will always be working to purify and renew us. In the light of the gospel reading we might ask ourselves in what ways we have allowed the values of the market place to override the values of the gospel in our own lives, in the life of our society, in the life of our church.
God Bless.