First Reading: Ex 20:1-17; Psalm: 19. R. v. Jn 6:68c; Second Reading: 1 Cor 1:22-25; Gospel: Jn 2:13-25



Zeal for His House: Jesus Cleansing the Temple

The temple for the Jewish people is the holiest of all places. It is for them the sacred dwelling place of God because the Ark of the Covenant dwells there. Prior to the building of the temple, the Tent of Meeting where the Ark of the Covenant was formerly placed was the meeting point between God and Moses (Ex 25:22; 40:34). So, for the Jewish people, wherever the Ark of the Covenant is, God dwells there. When the temple was eventually built, the Ark of the Covenant was moved to an inner room called Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of holies) within the temple. The presence of the Ark within the temple was the conviction of the Jews that God dwells in the temple; and only there should God be worshipped.

When Jesus entered the temple in the gospel of today, his intention was not to disrupt the activities of the temple but to purify the temple and to inaugurate true worship and holiness. Ordinarily, it is customary to have the animal sellers and money changers around the temple during the Passover feast; for the celebration involves animal sacrifices and monetary offering. Since it will be burdensome to travel with animals, and since the Jewish currency was the only acceptable legal tender for this feast; pilgrims found it more convenient to sort all these out in the temple.

The violent reaction of Jesus towards this business setting in the temple was not only because of the rowdy buying and selling, the extortion of the pilgrims, and the violation of the Gentile court where the business took place; but primarily to cleanse the temple and to rid it of its crude and ritualistic spirituality. The temple and all the gifts offered within it are only but a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 8:5). Christ is the archetype of which the temple is a copy. So, to understand the true meaning of worship; Christ the true temple and the God made visible should be the point of focus and not the temple. The cleansing of the temple therefore was to get rid of the old ways of worship and to inaugurate the Messianic worship; a worship in spirit and in truth.

Jesus would tell the Samaritan woman in the later chapter of John’s gospel; “believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father … the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him” (Jn 4:21-23).

When the Jews saw what Jesus did, they were angry. And so they asked Jesus: “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” To justify his action, Jesus said to them; “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But they completely misconstrued the words of Jesus.

The words: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” was prophetic. Jesus was not only predicting his death but was also saying that he is the real Paschal Lamb. And that by his death and resurrection, there will be no need for animal sacrifices anymore for he will wash our sins away once and for all. Christ, by his cross and resurrection made us sons and daughters of the Father who will no longer search for God in the temple for God now lives within us by virtue of our baptism. True worship therefore is not merely keeping the commandments but keeping intact through holiness and love our relationship with God who now lives within us.

As St Paul constantly reminds us; “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:19). God is Spirit. God lives within us and everywhere. God is not confined to the temple or to any place. True worship does not consist in animal sacrifices but in intimate union with Christ in the spirit of true love. Love is what binds us together with the Spirit of God who lives within us. If we are lacking in love towards others; we are false and not true worshippers. This period of lent is a time for us to reflect on our love for God and for one another.

Since our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, St Paul also went on to admonish us: “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19b-20). Lent is a time to re-evaluate our commitment in glorifying God with our bodies. Do we indulge in immoral acts such as fornication, adultery, polygamy, rape, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, masturbation, and other sexual sins? Do we engage in destructive actions that are harmful to the human body? Like excessive alcohol, overeating, smoking, drugs and other habits detrimental to our health. We must remember that when we harm our bodies, we defile God’s temple.

As we continue on our forty day’s journey of fasting, prayer and abstinence; we must bear in mind that these rituals will be fruitless if we have no love of God in our hearts and love of neighbour in practice. The ritual of fasting, prayer and abstinence is secondary. Love for God made visible in our love for neighbour is primary. Without it, every other spiritual exercise is meaningless.   


Lord Jesus, grant us the grace to practice true spirituality by becoming embodiments of your love through holiness of life and works of charity. Amen.            

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