When I ask my students if Jesus ever sinned, inevitably, some 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 the prophetic tradition. Jesus is making a bold spectacle to drive home the point that the temple is not a marketplace but is to be a place of worship and right praise to his Father.
Greater still than the temple, is the people of God. Further down in the text, when those present ask for a sign to justify 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. Another sect would also arise as the followers of the new way of Jesus which became the Church, the Body of Christ.
Each of us has a unique part to play in the Church. We are called to bear witness and practice, in our own unique way, our faith in our everyday experiences. We may be the only Bible someone ever reads. This call to put our faith into action is not an invitation to be overwhelmed by nor an excuse to assume 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). We are to seek and follow Jesus, the Truth, and allow his truth to shape our lives. We need to resist being defensive and rigid. Instead, we are called to be flexible and open to dialogue, sharing our stories and experiences, and inviting others to do the same. When we are willing to encounter and walk together, we learn and grow from one another. In this way, we become less other and more human to one another.
We need to resist all that contributes in any way to the dehumanization, hate, and violence that is rampant in our country and the world by rooting ourselves in Jesus, the living Temple. We need to recognize that we all fall short of the glory of God and on our own, we are limited in how far we can go. We need to be willing to be conformed to the will of God through spending consistent time in silence, prayer, meditation, study, worship, and service 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. One of the ways we are dismissed after Mass is to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our life.”
Costello, Gwen. Walking With Pope Francis: Thirty Days with the Encyclical The Light of Faith. New London, CT: Twenty Third Publications, 2013.