Sundays Into Silence > Cycle B

3rd Sunday of Lent (B)

Cleansing the Inner Temple
Jn 2:13-25

Reflections by Fr. Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

       Some years ago, when there were unpopular governments in many countries, a car sticker often seen was "NIXON ALSO WON BY A LANDSLIDE." There is an ebb and flow in politics as in life. Very soon when people's needs are not filled they turn against the politician who promised messianic liberation. Sometimes the politician turns against the people who, in his or her view failed to do their part. The same ebb and flow of affection and disillusionment happens between spouses in marriage, with superiors in religious communities, with bishops in diocese. The new broom sweeps clean, but then the honeymoon soon ends.

It is clear from the gospels that something like this happened also in the career of Jesus. At first he was highly successful and wowed by the crowds. As he cured their sick and fed their hungry bodies they believed that the type of messiah that they expected had arrived and they wanted to make him king. But he refused that kind of kingship: his kingdom was not of this world. While there was an ebb and flow of popular support for Jesus there seems to have been a definite point at which the religious and civil authorities turned against him and began to plot to get rid of him. Etiene Trocme in JESUS AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES claims that the crucial turning point was the incident of the cleansing of the temple about which we read in today's Gospel. The key to his explanation is in understanding the schematic approach used by the different writers.

St. Mark, followed by Luke and Matthew, put the story of the cleansing of the temple just before Holy Week because he, in his artificial ordering of events, recorded the happenings in Galilee before any happenings in Jerusalem. But John, with his own schematic approach, places the incident in the temple much earlier in the ministry of Jesus and it was, he claims, this incident that focused the attention and the anger of the religious and civil authorities on Jesus.

There is plenty of evidence even from outside the Gospels that there was a roaring trade in sacrificial animals going on in the court yard of the temple. Every Jew was obliged to spend a certain proportion of his income in Jerusalem. Most pilgrim Jews would have arrived with foreign currency and so the money traders were also doing well for themselves, also inside the temple courtyard. When Jesus saw this he probably organized a group to help him drive out the traders and the money changers - those with big vested interests. And it was precisely because he condemned and challenged the abuse of money and trade that the powerful and the rich turned against him.

Karl Marx once said that it is easier to make people chaste than just! People will tolerate a lot once their economic interests are not threatened. Unfortunately the temples of our hearts can also be cluttered up with all sorts of inappropriate activities that conceal the fact that it is the dwelling place of the spirit. Our insecurity can drive us to grasping fame and wealth and power in open or in subtle ways.

If our own prayers are noisy and we keep ourselves busy at prayer time we may be able to shout down the noise in the internal temple. We cannot, however, meditate for long - try to be still and silent saying a prayer word - without becoming aware of our internal dishonesty, greed, jealousy and plasticity.

Then we are faced with the Gospel choice. Do we drive out the traders and the money changers from our hearts or do we try to get rid of Christ who interferes in our worship of false gods? This is the issue for many who meditate. They do, in a sense, become aware of the devils inside them. These could be the devils of an inability to forgive, dishonesty in business, illicit relationships, exploitation of people or of the environment. With this awareness, do they try to get rid of the devils at great cost to themselves or do they try to get rid of Christ?


Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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