Lent 3 B - Cleansing of the Temple

From Fr. Tony Kadavil: 


First Reading: Exodus 20: 1-17
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
Gospel: John 2: 13-25 


1)“Never argue with him when he's drunk!" 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.

2) Beware of whip-lashing Jesus in April while you file your tax returns! 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.




The central theme of today’s readings is the challenge to keep our covenant agreement with Jesus Christ, just as the Israelites tried to keep the agreements of the Old Testament covenant with Yahweh by promising to obey the Ten Commandments. We become people of the new covenant by loving others as Jesus did, by keeping our parish church holy and fully dedicated to divine worship and by keeping our hearts cleansed, just, holy and pure temples of the Holy Spirit. 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. The responsorial psalm depicts the Mosaic Law’s life-enhancing attributes: it refreshes the soul and rejoices the heart; it is pure and true, more precious than gold. The second reading reminds us that we must preach the divine folly of the crucified Christ and the spirit of the cross, especially during the Lenten season. The message of the cross is God’s wisdom and power and, foolish as it may seem, it is greater than the Law, greater than the Temple, greater than worldly wisdom or human strength. Today’s gospel gives the dramatic account of Jesus' cleansing the Temple of its merchants and money-changers, followed by a prediction of his death and resurrection.


First reading, Exodus 20:1-17: On the first Sunday of Lent we reflected on the covenant that God made with the world. Last Sunday our meditation was on the covenant promises God made to Abraham and his descendants. On this third Sunday of Lent we consider the third covenant God made with His chosen people through Moses 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. The Ten Commandments form a list of directives or instructions for living out our covenant relationship. In other words, it is the constitution of the people of God because the Ten Commandments were part of a covenant which God entered into with a specific group of people: the Israelites. The covenant offered these people a society genuinely free, secure, mutually respectful and trustworthy, superior to neighboring societies, and more humane than anything the earth had yet seen. 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.”


Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 1:22-25: Since today's gospel portrays Jesus as causing a scandal by his prophetic cleansing of the Temple, Paul says that Jesus’ cross is a scandal, or stumbling block, to the Jews and the Gentiles. A crucified Christ did not fit into the Jewish concept of a triumphant political messiah. In the same manner, the idea of a suffering God who was crucified but rose again did not appeal to the intelligentsia of Corinth. Hence, the Apostle simply reminds the Corinthian community of something they already know: “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” Though Jesus expected His disciples to adhere to the Ten Commandments, it quickly became evident to them that such adherence was simply "entry-level" faith. After His death and resurrection, they discovered it was essential to follow Jesus himself rather than a series of laws. The only way to live a fulfilled life was to imitate Jesus' dying and rising, whether it scandalized others or not.




1) Time of the incident: Passover was a major Jewish festival when pilgrims from all over Palestine and beyond would come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast and to pay their annual Temple tax. Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matt. 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48), report that Jesus participated in the Passover feast only once in his public life and that was just before his arrest, emphasizing the time when Jesus cleansed the Temple. The synoptic gospels place the "cleansing of the Temple" immediately after Jesus' triumphant arrival in Jerusalem on the back of the colt of an ass. For Matthew, Mark, and Luke the powerful scene in the Temple demonstrates Jesus at the height of his power and popularity. His conflict with the religious establishment and at the religious capitol itself provided fuel for the fires of indignation and alarm set among the Sadducees and Pharisees. John put it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry because he was not interested in telling us when Jesus cleansed the Temple, but rather in showing that this cleansing was an act prophesied of the Messiah. John considered the raising of Lazarus, and not the Temple-cleansing, as the precipitating event for Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion (John 11-12).


2) The Temple Jesus cleansed: The Temple in Jerusalem was the symbol of Jewish religion and the only center of Israel’s common worship and sacrifices. Weekly Sabbath prayers and the teaching of the Law were conducted in local synagogues. King Solomon built the first Temple in 966 BC, and I Kings, chapter 5, gives a detailed description of its solemn blessing. The Temple area covered some 35 acres. After 379 years, the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it in 587 BC and took all the healthy Jews as slaves. On their return, after 70 years of Babylonian exile, the Jews rebuilt the Temple in 515 BC under the leadership of Zerubbabel. It was desecrated and stripped by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 B.C. and cleansed and restored by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 B.C. King Herod the Great renovated it in 20 BC, and Jesus did his controversial cleansing of this Temple, in the outer courtyard, called the Court of the Gentiles, since Gentiles were allowed to enter it.


3) The abuses which infuriated Jesus: a) The merchants selling animals and the money changers had converted the Court of the Gentiles into a noisy market making it impossible for the Gentiles to worship Yahweh. i) The merchants sold the animals and birds for sacrifice at unjust and exorbitant prices (18 to 20 times the regular price outside the Temple). ii) The animal-inspectors, bribed by the merchants, disqualified even the healthy animals brought by poor shepherds and farmers for sacrifice. This was an unjust extortion at the expense of poor and humble pilgrims, who were practically blackmailed into buying animals and birds from the Temple booths. Jesus considered this a glaring social injustice aggravated by the fact that it was perpetrated in the name of religion. . b) The Temple authorities, by sharing the profit made by merchants and money-changers, converted it into a “hideout of thieves” (Mk & Luke). Roman coins, bearing the images of pagan gods and the emperor, were forbidden as offering in the Temple. The moneychangers, who exchanged the Temple coin (Galilean shekel) with Roman coins, demanded 1/6 of the value of the coin as their commission, even from the poor people who had to pay one and a half days of their daily wage as their annual Temple tax. What especially enraged Jesus was not that a fee was being charged, but that the amount being charged to the poor was exorbitant and, hence, unjust. What was happening was a great social injustice done in the name of religion. In fact, the money-changers were street-level representatives of a corrupt Temple banking system which had become an instrument of injustice, fleecing the poor to benefit the powerful. By chasing the money-changers and merchants from the Temple, Jesus was questioning the validity of the entire sacrificial system itself -- of Israel's ability to atone for its sins, be forgiven and stand in right relationship with God.


Jesus got whip-cracking mad: Jesus' reaction to this commercialized faith was fierce. Since no weapons were allowed inside the Temple, Jesus had to construct his own: a whip of cords. He then wrought havoc on those who were committing abuses. He pushed people and animals out of the way, overturning tables, and spilling the money-changers' coins. With over a hundred thousand pilgrims in the city to make their sacrifices at the Temple, it seems likely that there would be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sheep and cattle. Considering the crowd and the damage, it is one of the unsung miracles of Jesus' ministry that he was not set upon and killed by a mob of outraged businessmen and Temple police! Because of his righteous zeal, Jesus inspired people with respect for his actions. His words bit into the consciences of those who were taking advantage of the system. John adds an additional note that Jesus’ disciples remembered Psalm 69:9 (“Zeal for Your house consumes me”), as a justification for Jesus' rage. Filled with zeal for the house of God, that special place where humans and God meet, Jesus challenged religious practice that was simply external. Jesus, answering the call of a higher Authority, obeyed, regardless of the consequences.


The Temple in Jerusalem replaced by Jesus the Temple: 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. The Temple in Jerusalem was the place where God made His name or glory to dwell. With Jesus’ coming on the scene, the Temple was no longer important in Jewish life as John tells the story. The Temple ceased to have a function. Jesus' promise of a new Temple suggested that God's glory would be manifested, not in a building, but in a person. By the end of the first Christian century, whenever Christians heard the word Temple, they no longer thought of the destroyed stone and mortar edifice which Solomon had originally constructed, but of the risen Jesus: the Temple which had been destroyed and raised up again in three days. Jesus had replaced and superseded everything the Temple had formerly symbolized. By his prophetic actions in the Temple, Jesus made it clear that the God who gave the law on Sinai could not be bought by sacrifice or bribe. Jesus is the Temple through which His followers come into contact with God. Our faith is Person-centered, and we are dealing with a relationship. The cleansing of the Temple by Jesus conveys to us the message that our parish church should be the source of strength for our spiritual life and the proper venue for its public expression.

The Sadducees’ challenge: Jesus threw the mechanics of Temple worship into chaos, disrupting the Temple system during one of the most significant feasts of the year, so that neither sacrifices nor tithes could be offered that day. No wonder the Jews who were gathered at the Temple asked for a sign to warrant his actions! The Sadducees responsible for the Temple’s ongoing life demanded some sort of an explanation (but surprisingly no reparation), for the holy mess Jesus had made. That is why they demanded "signs" which might legitimize Jesus' disruptive actions. Jesus' response only promised more destruction, with an infinitely greater cost. The Sadducees took this talk of Temple-destroying literally and were properly horrified. John’s account once again jumps forward in time, giving as the reference behind Jesus' reply, his future death and resurrection. Both interpretations are shocking. Suggesting that God would allow the Temple, the most holy site in Judaism, to be reduced to rubble was nothing less than blasphemy.


Life messages:


1) We need to avoid a calculating mentality in divine worship: Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, one of mutual love, respect and a desire for the family’s good, with no thought of personal loss or gain. Hence, fulfilling our Sunday obligation only out of fear of mortal sin and consequent eternal punishment (hence, a loss), is a non-Christian approach. In the same way, obeying the commandments and doing acts of charity merely as prerequisites for heavenly reward are acts driven by a profit motive, of which Jesus would not approve. Hence, let us ask these questions during this third week of Lent: Can leading worship become simply a business for the clergy for which they are paid? Do the laity sometimes think that they are "paying" the minister to do the worship for them -- thinking, "we pay them to do this for us"? Do we think of God as a vending machine into which we put our sacrifices and good deeds to get back His blessings? Do we use our acts of obedience to the Ten Commandments as bargaining chips with God? The theologian Karl Rahner put it this way: "The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim God with their mouths and deny Him with their lifestyles are what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable."


2) We need to remember that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit: 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.


3) We need to love our parish church and use it: Our church is the place where we come together as a community to love and praise God. It is the holy place where we gather strength to support one another in the task of living the gospel. It is the place where we come privately to enter into intimate conversation with God. In this building many prodigal sons and daughters have met the merciful Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and have been welcomed back to our community. In this building, tears have been shed by those in pain and grief. Let’s look around our church this morning and treasure it. When we pass our church, we might take the time to make a brief visit. Let us make our church even more of a holy place by adding our prayers and songs to parish worship and offering our time and talents in the various ministries.


4) Do we deserve the presence of Jesus with his whip in our contemporary world? a) Cases of reported child abuse have risen from under one million cases annually to nearly three million. b) Cohabitation statistics are up six-fold. Contrary to popular belief, "trial marriage" -- living together followed by marriage -- is a statistical predictor of later divorce. c) The divorce rate has doubled, and happiness in surviving marriages has slightly declined. d) In 1960, five percent of babies were born to unwed parents. Today, more than 27 percent of all children are raised by single parents. In 1960, one out of 10 children lived with only one parent, whereas today, three of 10 is the average.


Additional Anecdotes


1) "Mother Who Abandoned Son Wins Half of His $300,000 Estate." Did you read about a Connecticut Supreme Court case in which the court reluctantly ruled that a Suzanne Benson is entitled to half the estate of her dead son? If the newspapers are correct, this mother abandoned her two-year-old son 13 years ago. Recently the son was killed in a car/bicycle collision. His dad's insurance company awarded $300,000 to the son's estate. Mrs. Benson showed up after all this time to claim half the money. Under Connecticut law, if Mrs. Benson had officially terminated her parental responsibility, she could not have profited from the money. Abandonment of a baby, however, does not constitute formal parental termination. ["Mother Who Abandoned Son Wins Half of His $300,000 Estate," The Knoxville News Sentinel (May 10, 1989), Section A, P. 7.] So she collected $150,000. That violates my sense of justice, doesn't it yours? It's not fair. It's not right. But listen. There are far worse injustices taking place in our world than that one isolated case. We all know it's true. There are racial injustices, religious injustices, economic injustices. In today’s gospel Jesus reacts forcefully against religious injustice.


2) Nitroglycerine and salad bar: Someone has compared anger to nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerine is an unstable liquid which, in paste form, constitutes dynamite. However, nitroglycerine in very small amounts is what is given to heart patients to keep their hearts beating. Anger, of itself, is not sinful. The sin is in getting angry over the wrong things. We get angry when someone cuts us off in traffic, or when someone takes credit for something we've done at the office. We get angry at the kids when they're too noisy and at our spouses when they don't meet our expectations. Sometimes we get angry when we're simply tired and cranky. We don't even need anything to set us off. The media reported sometime back on a fight that broke out in a nursing home. The Spring Haven Retirement Community in Florida found their peace disrupted over a nasty incident at the salad bar. Mealtime turned ugly when an 86-year-old man complained to another gentlemen about picking through the lettuce. Name-calling soon gave way to punching and the police were summoned. Those in the way paid a price. One resident was bitten in his attempt to stop the fight, another knocked down. While no one was seriously injured, one of the men was expelled from the home. ( ) You and I get angry over all kinds of things-some of them exceedingly silly. Sinful human beings exploit religion just like they exploit everything else and for the same reasons--wealth, power, prestige. Jesus got angry when he saw people exploiting religion for their own gain. That's a little different from getting miffed over a salad bar.


3) Jesus the meek lamb and ferocious lion: C. S. Lewis illustrated the contrasting qualities of Jesus in his character Aslan, the Lion. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, two children, Lucy and Edmund, come to a grassy area. The field covers an area almost as far as the eye can see in greenery, except for one small white spot. The children can't figure out what the white spot is from a distance, so they hike down to it and discover that it's a lamb. This white woolly creature is not just any lamb but a lamb that can cook breakfast and have a conversation with them. The children want to know how to get to the land of Aslan. While the lamb is giving them directions a marvelous thing happens: "His snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself towering above them and scattering light from his mane" (C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as found in "What's it going to take?" a sermon by Rev. John H. Pavelko). Lewis graphically illustrates one of the great truths of our faith: Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world is also the Lion of Judah. In Christ we find both the meekness of the lamb and the ferocity of the lion. Jesus could be both the strong and gentle man who welcomed children and the angry man who swung a mean whip to clear the Temple.


4) "In his note there was a very naughty word." Paul Harvey tells about a robber in Oceanside, California wearing a motorcycle helmet and carrying a gun who strode into a branch bank. He selected a teller who appeared fiftyish, soft, kindly, an easy mark. He handed her a note demanding money or her life. The woman reached for the cash drawer. Then she looked again at the note and her eyes flashed, her lips clenched. She pulled the entire cash drawer out, but instead of giving him money, she clobbered the robber over the head with the drawer. And again and again. She was scolding him. Money was flying everywhere and she was beating him and shouting shame on him and bouncing blows off his helmet "until the young man turned and ran. Police caught him in nearby shrubbery. Then they asked the woman teller how come she was about to give him money at gunpoint and then, suddenly, instead, became enraged? She said, "In his note there was a very naughty word." (Paul Harvey’s For What It's Worth"). Different people get upset at different things. Jesus shouted, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" Jesus got their attention. Sometimes we need to get angry. Anger can lead to creative and constructive solutions. However, Jesus' anger is not the focus of this story.


5) The court had to let Sweeney go free. There is a most interesting story from American history about a man named George Wythe (pronounced with), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and perhaps one of the period's most noted legal minds. In 1776, George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson, and Edmund Pendleton began the task of reworking and updating the laws of the state of Virginia. The task took most of their time for three years. It was really an extraordinary piece of work. However, there was at least one flaw – a flaw that would one day haunt the family and friends of George Wythe. In 1806, Wythe suffered for almost 2 weeks from what almost certainly was arsenic poisoning and finally died. It is also reasonably certain that Wythe's grandnephew, George Wythe Sweeney, had added the arsenic to his elder's coffee. However, the only person who saw Sweeney commit this act was Lydia Broadnax, Wythe's devoted mulatto housekeeper; and negroes and mulattoes were forbidden under Virginia law to testify in court against whites – a law that George Wythe had chosen to let stand during his revision process. So despite fairly certain knowledge that Sweeney had murdered Wythe, the court had to let Sweeney go free. (Brother C. Edward, FSC. "The Law That Failed," American History Illustrated (Jan., 1973), pp. 38-45. ) I suppose we might consider that a case of poetic justice. If George Wythe had recognized the rights of African-Americans, his killer would not have gone free. Justice does not always work out that neatly, of course, but we should tremble when we reflect that God is a just God. For eventually justice does prevail. There is a time when Christians ought to get angry about some of the inequities and injustices in our world. As Melvin Wheatley once said, "There are situations in life in which the absence of anger would be the essence of evil." There is a time for anger.


6) "Somebody ought to do something about that." A man named Leonard Haslim got angry watching the 6 o'clock news. Hundreds of people had died in an airliner crash in Washington, D.C. because the plane's wings iced up, making it too heavy to fly. Haslim decided to make sure it didn't happen again. Haslim came up with a brilliant, but rather simple solution. Everyone who has studied science knows that opposite charges attract and like charges repel. Haslim used that principle to come up with the ultimate wing deicer. He wrapped a thin sheet of rubber around an airplane wing, with wire ribbons carrying electrical current underneath. When he threw the switch on, the positive wires jumped away from each other, as did the negatives, breaking the ice that had frozen to the layer of rubber above them. "It's like snapping a hall carpet," drawls Haslim, "and watching the dust fly." His invention can pulverize ice an inch thick on the surface of a wing. Yet it uses no more power than a single landing light, and costs less than an airplane tire. "It's so simple, lightweight, and cheap, it's nauseating," says Haslim. It may be that over the next several years, hundreds of lives will be saved because Leonard Haslim got angry watching the 6 o'clock news. (Success, October, 1990). Is there something making you angry? Is there some evil in the world that a voice within you keeps saying, "Somebody ought to do something about that." That is what Jesus did, as described in today’s gospel, by cleansing the Temple.


7) One-man army: Two men stood in front of a taxi cab arguing about who had the right to the cab. While they argued, the wife of one of the men stood and watched. After they had argued for a few of minutes, one man became calm, opened the door for his opponent, and returned to his wife. Curious, his wife asked him why he'd suddenly allowed the other man to take the cab. He explained, "You see dear, he needed the cab more than we did; he was late for his martial arts class. He's the teacher!" Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus had no such fear in confronting the animal merchants, the money-changers and the Temple police in the Temple of Jerusalem in his cleansing the Temple operation with prophetic courage. (The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), January 1996).


8) Herman Kahn and nuclear war: Herman Kahn, who founded the Hudson Institute, a private center for research on national security and public policy, had been working on a paper on nuclear warfare, which he was to deliver at the Pentagon on July 8, 1983, when he died very suddenly on July 7. For 23 years he had been repeating the same theme: that nuclear war was not only a possibility but a probability, insisting that a nuclear war would not mean the annihilation of civilization. He believed in "degrees of awfulness," and prescribed arms control, negotiated disarmament, and a strong military deterrent to nuclear war. Kahn’s critics insisted that he minimized the dangers of nuclear war and played into the hands of the militarists calling for more powerful weapons systems. Some claimed that his thinking, writing, and speeches merely supported the system when he ought to have been challenging it. Jesus could never be accused of such a sell-out in the scheme of things prevailing in the Temple. He shook the building - and the system - right down to the very foundations of both. Why wouldn’t the priests and the other leaders be upset with him and begin to consider how they might get rid of this Jesus?


9) The Temple Jesus cleansed: It had a series of ascending courtyards. Your first entry was into the outer courtyard ... the place that was called the Court of the Gentiles. You could be admitted there ... because anybody could be admitted there. But if you were a Gentile ... which virtually all of you are ... you could not go beyond there. For it was "death" for a Gentile to penetrate further. Next came the Court of the Women, entered by the arch that they called the Beautiful Gate. Any Israelite could go there. This was followed by the Court of the Israelites, entered by Nicanor's Gate (a gate of Corinthian bronze which required 20 men to open and shut). It was in this court that the people assembled for Temple services. Lastly, came the Court of the Priests, into which only the priests might enter. There could be found the great altar of the burnt-offering ... the lesser altar of the incense-offering ... the seven-branched lamp stand ... and the table of the shew bread. It was at the back of the Court of the Priests that the Holy of Holies stood, accessible only to the High Priest, and only once a year. To enter the Holy of Holies was to approach the very throne of God. Which is why legend has it that more than one High Priest attached a rope to his ankle before passing through the veil, thus ensuring that (should he be struck dead by the power of God while praying), his colleagues would be able to pull him out without endangering themselves. So when Jesus went into the Temple for purposes of "cleansing," where did he go? Not to the Holy of Holies. Not to the Court of the Priests. Not to the Court of the Israelites. Not even to the Court of the Women. Jesus went into the outer court ... the Court of the Gentiles.


10) Jesus and the IRS: The voice on the other end of the line identified its owner as a representative of the Internal Revenue Service. The caller asked, "Did John Jones give $10,000 to your church last year?" The pastor thought for a moment, and then carefully replied, "He will!" If there is anything that strikes terror into the hardiest of hearts it is the dread acronym: IRS. "The Infernal Revenue Service." Er, I mean, the Internal Revenue Service. Someone has said, "You may not agree with every department in the government, but you really have to hand it to the IRS." Another cynic has said, "Death and taxes may always be with us, but at least death doesn't get any worse." Arthur Godfrey once said, "I feel honored to pay taxes in America. The thing is, I could probably feel just as honored for about half the price." Benjamin Franklin said that "in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." The one we will have to confront but once; the other, like gospel on Jesus’ cleansing the Temple of Jerusalem, comes around once a year, frightening us about what would happen if he had to come to our hearts with a whip in his hands.




1) Devouring monstrous “zeal” in the church: There is a funny story about the childhood days of the former American president Theodore Roosevelt. Little Teddy Roosevelt had a problem. When he was a child his mother, Mitty, found that he was so afraid of the Madison Square Church that he refused to set foot inside it alone. He was terrified, as she discovered, of something called "The Zeal." It crouched in dark corners ready to pounce upon him. And when she asked him what zeal might be, he said that he couldn't exactly describe it, but he thought it might be something like an alligator or a dragon, and he had heard the pastor read about it from the Bible one day. So using a concordance, Mitty read him those passages containing the word zeal until suddenly he stopped her and, very excited, said "That’s it!" The line was from the Book of John, Chapter 2, verse 17, and it was the King James version- "And his disciples remembered that it was written the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."


2) Commercials in the church: 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.” (Liguorian, March, 2006).


3) “I don’t smoke during Lent.” The story is told of a priest who was coming back to his parish house one evening in the dark only to be accosted by a robber who pulled a gun at him and demanded, “Your money or your life!” As the priest reached his hand into his coat pocket the robber saw his Roman collar and said, “So you are a priest? Then you can go.” The priest was rather surprised at this unexpected show of piety and so tried to reciprocate by offering the robber his packet of cigarettes, to which the robber replied, “No, Father, I don’t smoke during Lent.”





Today’s readings from Holy Scripture challenge us to keep our covenant agreement with Jesus Christ by becoming people of the new covenant, loving others as Jesus did, keeping our parish church holy and fully dedicated to divine worship and keeping our hearts cleansed, just, holy and pure temples of the Holy Spirit.


Scripture Lessons


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. The responsorial psalm depicts the Mosaic Law’s life-enhancing attributes: it refreshes the soul and rejoices the heart; it is pure and true, more precious than gold. The second reading reminds us that we must preach the divine folly of the crucified Christ and the spirit of the cross, especially during the Lenten season. Today’s gospel gives us the dramatic account of Jesus' cleansing the Temple of its merchants and money-changers, followed by a prediction of his death and resurrection. The synoptic gospels place the "cleansing of the Temple" immediately after Jesus' triumphant arrival in Jerusalem on the back of a colt on Palm Sunday while John places it at the beginning of his gospel. Jesus cleansed the Temple renovated by King Herod in B.C. 20. The abuses which kindled the prophetic indignation of Jesus were the conversion of God’s Temple into a “noisy market place” by the animal merchants and into a “hideout of thieves” by the money-changers with their grossly unjust business practices – sacrilege in God’s Holy Place. Jesus' reaction to this commercialized faith was fierce. Since no weapons were allowed inside the Temple, Jesus had to construct his own weapon, a whip of cords to drive out the merchants and money-changers from the Court of the Gentiles.


Life Messages


1) We need to avoid a calculating mentality in divine worship: Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, one of mutual love, respect and a desire for the family’s good, with no thought of personal loss or gain. We are not supposed to think of God as a vending machine into which we put our sacrifices and good deeds to get back His blessings.


2) Let us remember that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit: 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, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy. Let us cleanse it asking God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation. 3) Let us love our parish church and use it: Let us make our church a holier place by adding our prayers and songs to our parish worship and offering our time and talents in the various ministries.