Homily for the third Sunday of Lent B
. Today, the third Sunday of Lent we find ourselves in the Temple. We were with Jesus in the desert the first Sunday of Lent, 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 special encounter with God but, today we see the angry Jesus. The bible says a lot about the anger of God, I pray we don’t experience it because it can be terrible, (Num. 25:4). In our gospel reading today 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 out bust of anger by Jesus in our gospel reading today is a reaction to what he 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 wipe out 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 dishonour God in his house.
There is a question we need to answer here; what really provoked Jesus, was it because the people were selling in the Temple or was there another reason? Looking into the history of the Temple worship, 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 says; …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 at that time Jews were scattered all over the world and they come with different currencies. Though 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 from them. The same thing goes for the Sheep, cattle and pigeons; they were needed for Temple sacrifice but they were been sold to the pilgrims at an exorbitant prize, 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 business centres? Is God still been worshiped in spirit and in 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 in them, 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 over looked and devalued and this expresses itself in the way we treat the house of God. In the Catholic Church for instance, it is a tradition that when one enters a Church (specially the one with Tabanacle), he or she genuflects in reverence and adoration and makes the sign of the cross. 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 the commandments of God and worship him in truth and in spirit.