Homily for the third Sunday of Lent B03 Mar 2018, by Sermons in
. Today, the third Sunday of Lent, we find ourselves in the Temple. We were with Jesus in the desert the first Sunday of Lent, the second Sunday of Lent we were with him on the mountain of transfiguration, and today the third Sunday of Lent, we are with him in the Temple. These are places where we have a special encounter with God, but, today we see the angry Jesus. The bible says a lot about God’s anger; I pray we don’t experience the divine anger, it can be devastating (Num. 25:4). In our gospel passage this morning, we see a little of God’s anger. God’s anger is not an embarrassment to him. He need never be ashamed like men, for losing his temper. God’s anger is inseparably linked with his glory. God brings glory to himself when he exercises his anger.
The outburst of anger by Jesus in the temple was a reaction to what could be considered a sacrilege. It was in the Temple in Jerusalem where Jesus found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons and the money changers on their table. His anger was kindled; he made a wipeout of some cord and drove them all out of the Temple and overturned their tables. “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.” These were the descendants of the people God brought out of the land of Egypt, trained in the desert for forty years, given the Ten Commandments, and resettled. The same people turned around to dishonor God in his house.
There’s a question calling for an answer here; what really provoked Jesus, was it just the selling in the Temple, or was there another thing? Looking into the Temple worship history, it becomes clear that Jesus was not provoked simply because of the selling in the Temple but because of the exploitation that was involved. Exploitation is stealing, and it is condemned in our first reading today. No wonder the evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke say,…you have made my house a den of robbers (Mt.21:13, Mk. 11:17 and Lk. 19:46).
The occasion was the Passover, which is a great Jewish feast every Jew would want to attend. They attend this feast from all over because Jews were scattered all over the world and come with different currencies. In Palestine at that time, almost all currencies were valid, but to pay the Temple Tax, which was compulsory, the people needed to change their money into shekel, which was only valid for Temple tax. That explains the presence of the money changers and their table in the Temple when Jesus got in. Jesus did not get angry because of their presence, but because they were exploiting the pilgrims, they changed their money at a much higher rate, thereby cheating and stealing. The same thing goes for the Sheep, cattle, and pigeons; they were needed for Temple sacrifice, but they were sold to the pilgrims at an exorbitant price, which was stealing. What they were doing is against the commandment of God given in our first reading today. Jesus was angry because his house that is supposed to be a house of prayer, has been turned into the den of robbers, a place where people are now cheated and misled.
Looking at our world today and the proliferation of Churches, one wonders if the situation is different. Is the Church today still a house of prayer or a den of robbers? Is the Church still a house of God or a business center? Is God still been worshiped in spirit and truth? Are his powers and blessings commercialized? Are they for sale? Do we still have “money changers” in our Churches? Some Christians no longer have the fear of God; they see the Church as a place to enrich themselves.
The house of God is a place of prayer, and its sanctity must be respected. Today, the sanctity of the house of God has been overlooked and devalued, and this expresses itself in the way we treat the house of God. For instance, in the Catholic Church, it is a tradition that when one enters a Church (especially the one with Tabernacle), he or she genuflects in reverence and adoration and makes the cross’s sign. How much of these do we see today? Do we still see the Church as a holy ground?
As we continue our Lenten observances, we are all called to be just in our dealings with each other, which is the kind of fast that pleases God. We are called to struggle to keep God’s commandments and worship him in truth and spirit.