We have this dramatic action of Jesus early on in John’s Gospel, expelling the buyers and sellers from the temple as he begins his public ministry. The fourth evangelist demonstrates that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He has come to purify and cleanse the temple, not only the temple in Jerusalem but also the temple of his body that will be raised up. He would, as it were, overthrow the tables of the “law” and cast out the “merchants” of hypocrisy and legalism. He would usher in a new era with a way of living and worship that literally brings life to the people.
Each phrase in this Gospel echoes phrases used in the Old Testament such as “my Father’s house,” is a reflection of Psalm 69. Jesus moves to Jerusalem, moves to the day when he will suffer, die and be raised up for all humanity. This powerful sign is more than righteous anger for an injustice done to people who come to worship, overcharging them for their sacrificial gifts, or the exchange of coins for temple worship, but an anger at all injustices done in the name of God to humanity.
Jesus is the suffering servant who came to serve people’s needs, not benefit from their suffering or their mistakes. He intends that each person be a temple of the Holy Spirit, a sacred place, a holy dwelling. No one of us has the right to abuse the human person financially, emotionally, or any other way. I think our society can still learn something from this Gospel message in light of the school shooting in Florida a couple of weeks ago.
As Jesus opened the doors for authentic worship to the poor and rich alike, he invites us to open the doors of our hearts and be servants for others. Each week during Lent we can perform some act of charity, some act of kindness to assist others as we continue our threefold practices: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Lenten Blessings, Father Larry Hendel