Friday, 2 March 2018


                                                THE CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE

Like so many pious Jews Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem to celebrate the most sacred festival – the Passover – the annual celebration of the liberation of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. Jewish pilgrims would make their way in large numbers  towards Jerusalem, towards its Temple – the House of  the One True God – to their minds the most sacred, the most significant building on earth. 

Pilgrims saw themselves as reliving that awesome night when God carried out His threat to kill the first born male- human and livestock if Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go. Each family  had  either to bring its own lambs, pigeons  or cattle or purchase these at the Temple.   

 Expenses also included a Temple Tax and a fee for killing the offering.  The ‘unclean’ pagan coins used in day-to-day transactions were not acceptable in the Temple.  These had to be exchanged for ‘clean’ Jewish coins. In all these transactions the money dealer would deservedly take his ‘cut’ and then more.  There was so much swindling going on.

And this is what Jesus found when He burst upon the scene. He was unknown to the Jerusalem Temple crowd. According St. John’s Gospel the first time Jesus really caught anyone’s attention was at the Wedding Feast of Cana. 

And then He makes His presence known in the Temple. And there He was enraged at what going on in the House of  God. He did His utmost to put an end to it. “Making a whip out of cord He drove them all out of the Temple, sheep and cattle as well, scattered the money changers’ coins and knocked their tables over,“ (Jn.2.15).

Jesus was obviously extremely angry – but He didn’t ‘go overboard! He was filled with righteous indignation. To His mind the most haloed place on earth for Jews, the Temple in Jerusalem, the House of God, was being desecrated. 

And what is more, this abrupt interruption had come when pious Jews were expressing their boundless gratitude to God, their great reverence for God. He had delivered their ancestors from bondage. He had fulfilled His promise to give them a land they could call their own.

Jesus justified Himself with sharp words, “Stop turning my Father’s house into a market place!” “MY FATHER’S HOUSE!”  To pious onlookers it would have seemed that Jesus was putting Himself on a par with Almighty God; and that He was behaving as one with the authority of the Son of God, as one with a stake in His Father’s property. 

To imply that the one true God had an offspring was blasphemy. To do so within the Temple, the very House of God, would have  made matters worse.

 It is remarkable that no-one there and then challenged Jesus for speaking in this way. Later in John’s Gospel we  read that the Jews were intent on killing Him, “because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He spoke of God as His own Father and so made Himself God’s equal,” (John 5.18).

In this reflection I’ve limited myself to considering the incident of the cleansing of the Temple. I have not touched on the second portion of the Sunday Gospel – Jesus prophesying His Resurrection.

From the anger of Jesus I come to the conclusion that there’s FAR TOO LITTLE RIGHTEOUS ANGER in the world today and FAR TOO MUCH UNRIGHTEOUS ANGER. What think you?  

After hearing of Jesus vigorously protesting at the lack of reverence being shown to the House of God I see the need for us to consider whether there be indifference, amounting to irreverence, in the way we present and conduct ourselves in the House of God, where 
Jesus, the Son of God is actually present in the Eucharist.

And finally, while the Jews challenged Jesus to show His credentials that authorized Him to throw His weight around in the Temple, I would suggest that we ponder on this person Jesus – who defended the sacredness of the Temple, who was crucified, who rose from the dead, the Son Man, the Son of God –the Paschal Lamb who has taken away the sins of the world.
God bless you.
Peter Clarke, O.P.

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