3rd Sunday of Lent – Year B – Got GOD?
Bottom Line: Now it was this court of Gentiles that Jesus cleansed. In so doing he was making the point that the Gentile section (remember, we are Gentiles) was just as holy as the Jewish sections. God is God of all and not God of a select group. Like the Jews of the time of Jesus, some Christians today still think that God belongs to us alone and not to others as well.
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Fr. Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông (St. Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA)
3rd Lent -Year B (2009)
1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-25
Did you ever wonder what kind of personality Jesus had? We believe that Christ was Son of God and Son of Mary, truly God and truly human. Like any person, Jesus had a personality. Likes and dislikes, things that made him happy and things that made him sad. If we want to have Jesus as a friend, we have to know him as a person. To know Christ so well, with such intimacy, that we can describe his personality. Then Jesus our savior becomes Jesus our friend.
Place yourself back in the time of Jesus. The year is about 27 A.D. We pop into a normal Temple scene. Pious Jews are coming to offer animals in sacrifice. To offer sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem was especially pleasing to God.
But pilgrims traveled great distances to reach Jerusalem. Much too far to bring animals for sacrifice with them. They’d have to herd goats along busy roads, and have to feed the animals as they traveled. Much more convenient to buy the animal for sacrifice after getting to the Temple. Sellers of animals provided a needed service. Pilgrims bought the oxen and sheep and goats and doves, then gave them for sacrifice.
So too did the money changers provide a service. Because Roman coins had an image of Caesar, the Roman coins were not accepted in the Temple. To make an offering at the Temple, Jewish coins were needed, the money used in Jerusalem. Pilgrims with Roman coins had to convert their money. Combine the animals for sale with the money changing, and you got a mess. Noise, confusion, clutter, dust, and the smells of a dirty barn.
In that noisy and crazy world we encounter God again after the desert (Lent week 1) and the mountain, with the transfiguration (week 2), the Temple is a place of special encounter with God. But today we are not going to see the glorious face of Jesus; we are going to see his angry face. In our daily life we should obviously avoid anger and, when it does emerge, do our best to control it, especially anger management, for some would be the Lenten; Nevertheless, as today’s Gospel shows, some circumstances require an expression of anger. Jesus must have burned with a white hot fury as he knocked over tables and, with a whip, threatened (or perhaps even struck) merchants and their animals. “Get out of here! This is my Father’s house. You do not belong here!”
Two reasons can be given for this, namely, (a) the religious leaders had put religiosity over morality, and (b) they had put particularity over universality.
I assume the religious administrators of the Temple worship took pleasure to see that worshippers were duly supplied with high quality cattle, sheep and doves for sacrifice. They even made sure that the dirty money people brought with them could be exchanged for the holy Temple money. Wow, imagine I have the ushers changed your money before you enter the church today! At the same time, however, they were plotting against Jesus. If they took all that trouble to please God in worship, why couldn’t they take the trouble to investigate the claims of Jesus rather than condemn him so readily? For them pleasing God had become something you do in the Temple and not in your relationship with people. This kind of religiosity makes Jesus really angry.
The second reason why Jesus was mad with the religious establishment of his day was their practice of religious particularity over against universality, of exclusiveness over inclusiveness. Some knowledge of the design of the Temple will help us here. The Temple had five sections or courts: (1) holy of holies (2) court of priests (3) court of Israel (4) court of women (5) court of Gentiles. Though these were seen as five concentric circles of sanctity, the design made room for everybody in the house of God. It was a universal house of God “for all the nations” where every man or woman on earth would find a place in which to pray. But the Jewish leaders forgot that and thought that it was meant for them alone. So they decided to turn the court of the Gentiles into a “holy” market place for selling the animals required for sacrifice and for exchanging money. You could bring Roman money as far as the court of the Gentiles but not into the other four courts. The court of Gentiles was no longer regarded as part and parcel of the house of God, it had become a market place, pure and simple.
Now it was this court of Gentiles that Jesus cleansed. In so doing he was making the point that the Gentile section (remember, we are Gentiles) was just as holy as the Jewish sections. God is God of all and not God of a select group. Like the Jews of the time of Jesus, some Christians today still think that God belongs to us alone and not to others as well.
I started by asking about the personality of Jesus. Clearly, Christ gets angry when people turn away from God. Surface faith brings the wrath of God. Deep faith comes from the heart, and spills over into daily life. God loves those with deep faith. Live the faith-filled life and you will know God’s love in your life. So instead of asking you “got milk?” I ask you today “got God?”
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong