Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

3rd SUNDAY OF LENT: JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE

Jn 2: 13-25


FOR US CATHOLICS, we have been taught, as part of our beliefs, that there are persons, places, and days which are holy. Because these are deemed as holy, then, they deserve respect on our part. If we disrespect them, we can be charged of sins such as blasphemy and sacrilege.

Today’s gospel reminds us of our duty to give importance to make holy the places which are considered as holy. Jesus cleansed the Temple by making a whip out of cords and driving all the traders out of the temple area. On the one hand, the action of Jesus shows his anger toward those people who profaned the house of God. His anger shows His passion for justice because the vendors offered exorbitant prices for their stuff. On the other hand, Jesus’ anger shows his great reverence for the house of God. He shows that the reverence must not be compromised. That reverence or respect must be maintained.

What do these say to us?

Firstly, the theme of justice comes to the fore. Jesus was angry with the traders because of the injustice they do to the house of God. They transformed the Temple into a noisy market-place in which they can make money. It is no longer a solemn house of prayer. So, in His anger, He “overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace.” In the Church, it is always the aim to provide a prayerful mood for the worshippers and to maintain the sacredness of the place. In fact, in some churches, the signs “SILENCE” can be seen everywhere so that people will be reminded about the what is the Church for. That, it is a place for worship and prayer.

Secondly, His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (Ps 69:9). When the disciples reflected on Jesus’ action in the temple, ‘zeal’ was the word that summed it all up. Jesus is zealous because He doesn’t accept the status quo of habitual mediocrity. The day He arrives it is no longer business as usual: His Father’s house WILL be respected.

Our world today has now become a ‘secularized world’, and there is tendency to divest the church buildings of its sacredness. Before, Filipino Catholics make a sign of the cross whenever the pass a particular Church. But that slowly disappears now. In addition, before, people do the genuflection as soon as they enter church. But the new generation does not do that now. The Sunday Mass is an occasion for us to be in communion with God and with fellow Catholics. However, there is a danger of reducing it to a simple ‘outing’ or ‘meeting’ of friends. Our zeal for the house of God requires an awareness that we come to the Church in order to worship God. Every day we must pray that the Lord will once again ‘enkindle in our hearts the fire of His love’. Our zeal in living the faith is part of the way God works to make this temple of his Church indestructible.

Thirdly, Jesus converses with the Jews, and in answering to the latter’s question, He says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews did not understand it because Jesus was referring to “the temple of his body”. Thus, the body of Jesus is a Temple. But St Paul teaches us that we too are God’s temples because the Spirit of God dwells in us.  Hence, we have no right to desecrate God’s temple in us by impurity and injustice.  We are expected to cleanse our hearts of pride, hatred, jealousy and all evil thoughts, desires and plans. Also, since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we shall respect our own bodies. In fact, we are only custodians of our bodies. God, as giver of gifts, owns our bodies.

In this season of Lent, we are called to pray, to fast, and to give alms. In our prayer, we go to a place which is considered as holy. May the Church remain a favored place for us for genuine prayer, a place where we can truly communicate and commune ourselves with God. AMEN.


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