Exodus 20: 1-17 1 Corinthians 1: 22-25 John 2: 13-25
A little girl was taken to the church for the first time. As she was leaving with her parents, the pastor asked how she had liked the Mass. “I liked the music,” she replied, “but the commercial was too long.”
Dear friends! Today’s first reading teaches us that the Ten Commandments are the basis of our religious and spiritual life, just as they formed a rule of life for the Israelites as the result of their covenant with Yahweh at Mount Sinai. In that covenant God, who liberated His people from slavery in Egypt, promised to make the Jews His own people, to lead them to the Promised Land and protect them from their enemies. The people in return agreed to obey the Ten Commandments and other laws given by Yahweh through Moses.
Just as the traffic rules help us to reach safely our destination, the Ten Commandments help us here on earth to reach safely our eternal life. The Ten Commandments are based on two basic principles, namely, the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. The first four commandments demand from us reverence for God, reverence for His holy name, reverence for His holy day (Sabbath) and reverence for our father and mother. The remaining commandments ask us to respect life, to respect the bodies of other persons, to respect the good name of people, to respect our own words in a court of law and to respect our neighbor’s wife and his property. Jesus summarized all the commandments into two: love of God and love of neighbor and later clarified the latter further: “Love others as I have loved you.”
A man was driving without his seatbelt when he spotted a patrol car right behind him. He grabbed for the belt and put it on. But it was too late, and the red lights began to flash. “You weren’t wearing your seatbelt,” said the officer. “Yes I was,” said the man, “and if you don’t believe me, ask my wife.” “So how ABOUT it, ma’am?” asked the cop. “Officer,” she said, “I’ve been married to this man for forty years, and there’s one thing I’ve learned: Never argue with him when he’s drunk! Just give him a ticket for not wearing the seat belt.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t bother to argue with the unjust merchants and money changers who have converted the Temple of Jerusalem into a noisy “market place” and a “hideout of thieves.” Instead, he frightens them with his angry order and chases them away, holding a whip in his hands.
The Johannine account, in which Jesus quotes Zech. 14:21, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace,” seems at first glance to support the interpretation of the event as a cleansing. However, the greater emphasis here is not so much on the cleansing of the Temple, as on the replacement of the Temple.
St. Paul reminds us that we are God’s temples because the Spirit of God dwells in us. Hence, we have no right to desecrate God’s temple by impurity and injustice. We are expected to cleanse our hearts of pride, hatred, jealousy and all evil thoughts, desires and plans. Reminiscent of what Jesus did in cleansing the Temple, we, as 21st century disciples, must, with His grace, cleanse ourselves of attitudes and behaviors that prevent us from seeing and responding to hurt wherever we find it.
Let us welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives during Lent by repentance and the renewal of our lives. We will drive out the wild animals that do not belong to the holy temple of our body by making a whip of cords out of our fasting, penance and almsgiving during lent, and by going to confession to receive God’s loving forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation.
A man was having trouble sleeping with frightening dreams of angry Jesus chasing him with a whip in his hands. He knew in his heart it was his conscience that was keeping him awake. He’d been less than honest in filing his tax return, and it was getting to him. So he sent a check to the IRS with the following note: “Dear Sirs, in filing my 2011 tax return, I did not report all my income. Therefore, I am enclosing my check for $100.00. P. S. If my conscience still troubles me with those dreams of whip-lashing Jesus, I’ll send you the rest.” Guess what happened next! Today’s gospel challenges us to examine ourselves to see if Jesus will have to take a whip when he comes to our hearts – the temple of the Holy Spirit – in Holy Communion.