The first Sunday of Lent reminded us of the reality of temptation. Hence, we were called upon to be aware of our environment, since the tempter could be anyone. Besides, just as Jesus was tempted with food, we could be tempted with what we need the most. Then, the second Sunday was about the transfiguration of the Lord, Here, we were reminded that the path to glory involves a journey to “Jerusalem,” the place of the crucifixion by means of the “via crucis,” or “way of the cross.” In other words, there is no rose without thorns, there is no victory without the cross. In today’s gospel, the third Sunday of Lent, Jesus confronted the excessive commerce in the temple of his time, where profit replaced authentic temple spirituality. Hence, he took a violent action, in order to restore sanity to religious worship. Accordingly, he cleansed the temple. Today, we are reminded that the place of worship needs to be kept holy. Also, the worshipers, the temples of the Lord, according to St. Paul, are equally in need of cleansing. The action of Jesus is linked directly with the feast of Passover.
The history of the cleansing of the temple began in the Old Testament period. During the period in question, Antiochus Epiphanes IV was the king of Syria. He reined abuses after abuses on the Jews of Palestine. The high point of his nefarious activities against the Jews was his desecration of the Jewish temple. The pollution and the desecration of the Temple sparked a revolution. Judas Maccabeus led his people in a religious war to cleanse the temple and the land from ritual impurities. In the end, the Maccabean revolt was a huge success, though with a high cost of lives. Once Judas Maccabeus won his victory, he embarked on the cleansing and re-dedication of the temple.
Today, Jesus saw commercialization going on in the temple, as pollution and desecration that is why, he made whip and drove them all out to stop making the house of God a place of commerce.
It is true that the House of God is a place of prayer for all people, there is no doubt that at the same time, we need money to run the church business. Without money, the church cannot survive in a world where money is the medium of exchange. Jesus condemns abuses and godlessness.
The abuses condemned by Jesus is setting in. In many places, Sunday worship has now been converted into a dual celebration of the sacred and the mundane; the sacral and the secular. The Sunday celebration is being reduced to “Sunday collection”. The money-talk is now replacing the God-talk. There is now an unwritten “fifth gospel“: The gospel of money, which seems to be gaining the upper hand. In many Christian communities, the money-talk is becoming an unavoidable “Sunday-Sunday medicine.” Hence, the spirit of the secular is now gradually replacing the spirit of the sacred, thereby warranting another temple cleansing by Jesus.
Jesus wants us to go back to the basics, which have to do with the covenant. In perfecting the old covenant, Jesus did not abrogate it. He wants us to live it out in spirit and in truth. The Old Testament reading today, presents us with the Decalogue (Exodus 20:1-17), through which God speaks to his people revealing his will. He shows us that, as God of Israel, he is a father who knows his children by name, he talks to them and shows them the way to goodness and happiness. The Decalogue is not to limit our freedom, but to teach and show us the right way. Here, he maps out for us, how we can have the type of relationship he wants with us. He also, regulates how we can achieve right relationship with our neighbors. In his earthly ministry, Jesus summarized the Decalogue into love of God and love of neighbor (see Mark 10:17-19).
St. Paul will tell us to owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another, has fulfilled the law. Love does no evil to the neighbor. It is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10). St Paul will summarize our whole religion in the Christ-event when he says that Jews demand ‘signs’ and Greeks look for ‘wisdom,’ but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, and an absurdity to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-25). May Jesus help us to imitate his love, now and forever. Amen