When I ask my students if Jesus ever sinned, inevitably, there are those who reference the account from today’s Gospel. In these verses we read how Jesus, “made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area” (Jn 2:15). Jesus is not sinning here, rather, he is acting in line with prophetic tradition. Jesus is making a bold spectacle to drive home the point that the temple is not a marketplace but to be a place of worship and right praise for his Father.
Greater still than the temple, is the people of God. Further down in the text, when those present ask for a sign as to the reason he commits this act, Jesus said: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19). Clearly he was pointing to his body as the temple of God and referring to his Resurrection that would come.
The temple, the house of God, believed to be the very corporal presence, the very seat of God among his people, Israel, was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. This left a tremendous spiritual vacuum. Two groups that were intimately tied to the sacrificial cult of the temple, the Sadducees and the Essenes, very soon after the destruction, ceased to exist as a sect within Judaism. The Pharisees, who already were moving to a practice of home worship that mirrored the worship in the temple, would survive and be the ancestral root of Judaism today. The followers of the new way of Jesus would become the Church, the Body of Christ.
Each of us have a unique part to play in the Church. For some, we may be the only Bible someone ever reads. We are called to witness and practice, in our unique way, our faith in our every day experiences. This reality of our call is not to be an invitation to be overwhelmed with responsibility nor an excuse for a posture of elitism. We are no better than anyone else.
Pope Francis wrote: “Believers should not be presumptuous; rather, truth leads to humility. We know it is not ourselves possessing truth, it is truth that embraces and possesses us” (Costello 2013, 14). May we take these words to heart as we mourn again another act of violence resulting in thirteen deaths and eighteen injured at the Borderline Bar and Grill in L.A. To walk the path of peace, not just a striving for an absence of violence, but a recognition of the mutual respect and dignity of each and every person, we need to be possessed by the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus.
We need to resist all that contributes in any way to the violence, hate, and dehumanization rampant in our country and world and turn to Jesus, the living Temple. We need to recognize that we all fall short of the glory of God and on our own we are helpless. We need to be willing to be conformed to the will of God through our prayer, study, worship, and service so as to be empowered by the love of Christ to be instruments of peace, contemplatives in action, and advocates for healing and reconciliation in a wounded and weary church, politics, country and world.
Photo: Exiting Mass from Mission del Rey, Oceanside, CA.
Costello, Gwen. Walking With Pope Francis: Thirty Days with the Encyclical The Light of Faith. New London, CT: Twenty Third Publications, 2013.
Link to the Mass readings for Friday, November 8, 2018: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110918.cfm