In the Gospel of this 3rd Sunday of lent (B), Jesus drives out traders from the temple and in the First Reading God gives the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. How do these readings accompany us on our Lenten journey?
Exodus 20: 1-17
Psalm 19: 8-11
1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
John 2: 13-25
During the few years as missionary, as well as during my formation, I have made quite a number of movements; a lot of packing and unpacking. Of the two, it’s the packing that I found to be quite draining. Why?
When leaving a place I’m confronted with stringent choice, especially when it involves travelling by plane. Of the articles that I have accumulated in my room, convinced that they are necessary, I have to choose what to take and what to leave behind. I realise, it’s not just about sorting out but also reviewing the importance that I have attached to every item –is it really necessary? That’s the question I’m confronted with. There I come to realise that certain things that have been occupying the space in my room are not that necessary. The word of God for this Sunday accompanies us in this process of choosing and sorting out things that we carry along with us on the journey of our life.
“Take these things out of here!”
The Gospel takes us to the temple of Jerusalem, a Jewish sacred place, symbol of God’s presence among his people. Jews from all over Palestine and those who live in diaspora make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, especially during the major feasts. That’s why Jesus, from Galilee, comes to Jerusalem for Easter celebration. Of course, the temple is the focal point for pilgrims in Jerusalem. But when Jesus gets there, alas, the ambiance is not that of the sacred place; it’s no longer a place for silent contemplation. All you hear is the cluttering of coins, cooing doves, bleating lambs and mooing cattle; it’s more of animal-market than a house of prayer. However, that’s not out of disrespect for the temple; far from it. Indeed, Jews had a sense of sacredness, but why then such market?
At the esplanade of the temple there was a place where pilgrims could procure themselves with money (temple money), animals and birds for sacrifice. So it’s a way to facilitate the accomplishment of the religious practice. Unfortunately, in the long run, it’s the market ambience that took over, depriving this sacred place of the quietness it deserved. Jesus reacts to such abuse by driving out the traders: “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” And in his discussion with those who challenge him for what he’s just done, Jesus goes further to affirm that he’s the temple.
Jesus, new temple
When he says: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” he refers to himself as the new temple, the very presence of God among his people. And that has a new implication as we hear this command: “Take these things out of here”. It’s not about sorting out objects from churching building; sweeping or mopping the temple made of bricks but our own lives. That’s what Paul reminds us when he says: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Co 6:19-20). It means, I need to check the mooing cattle, bleating sheep and cooing doves in my life. In short, what are the things that desacralize the temple of God that I’m? It’s time to choose, to sort out the things that occupy the space of my life.
In the First Reading God gives the 10 Commandments to the people of Israel. These people have left Egypt, walking towards the Promised Land. Probably they have, in their manner of interacting and in their mentality, the baggage of slavery. So, it’s likely that once they reach the Promised Land they continue behaving as though they are still in the land of slavery where the powerful ones oppress the little ones. That’s why the Law that God gives them is not an extra baggage; but rather a guide that will enable them live fully as liberated people. So, this Reading of the giving of the law just reminds us that Lenten season is our march towards Easter. But the important question is: what are the things in my personal life and my relations that need some sorting out? What burdens should I leave behind so that I can move ahead, light and liberated? It’s not necessarily about what’s good or bad; rather, it’s about making a choice for things that help me to advance and have the courage to part away with those things that slow me down.
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