Turning Over Tables
John 2:13-25 THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT SAM 2018
The Temple and its surrounding complex on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was a very holy site to the Jews of antiquity. It was here where God’s Holiest of Holy Presence abided. From the time of Solomon, this location had been a place of prayer, pilgrimage, and sacrifice. It had undergone multiple attacks, desecrations, destructions, and reconstructions. It was here that Mary and Joseph had presented their Son Jesus to the Lord God Almighty. It was here that Mary and Joseph found their twelve-year-old Son Jesus doing the Father’s work. It was here that Jesus preached and prayed. It was truly Holy ground. Since many pilgrims came to this holy site to fulfill prescriptions of the law and to offer sacrifice, local merchants thought it an ideal location for doing business – changing money and selling sheep, oxen, and birds for ritual sacrifices. In many ways, these merchants were disrespecting the sacredness of the Temple for their own gains. We see even today at our own Christian and Marian Holy sites.
Well in today’s Gospel Jesus again returns to Jerusalem and becomes rightfully angry at the sight of such commerce and chaos in his Father’s house. He drives out the merchants and animals, spills the money and overturns tables. It must have been quite a sight! How had such a holy place been turned into a marketplace, a den of thieves?
All those merchants and Jewish pilgrims would have been familiar with the Ten Commandments which we heard in today’s first reading. The first three go into great detail about respect for God the Father – that there be no other gods, that God’s name not be taken in vain, and the Sabbath be kept holy as a sacred day of rest. They would have known love and care for one’s neighbor would have mattered equally. Yet, the commandments were rejected, the Temple was defiled, the poor were ignored and the Messiah in their midst was condemned to death.
We too live in a world in which commandments are broken and the sacred is profaned and disrespected. Right and wrong seem to be blurred at times. And integrity compromised for personal gain. Tragically we see the results of what happens when the sacred is profaned. Whether it’s the sacredness of a Florida classroom or the sacredness of an immigrant family trying to remain together. All of us are called to look deep into our own lives to see how we’ve compromised the sacred, to think about ways in which we can draw deep within ourselves and resolve to “turn over some tables.” When should we speak out against injustice? Where can we identify idolatry? In the privacy of our thoughts, how can we cast out the trivial and make room for the sacred? Let us resolve to begin with prayer – asking for Christ-like wisdom instead of human wisdom.
Lenten blessings, Fr Dave