The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this? Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. -John 2:13-22
Zeal for thy house will consume me … but what else is there? Zeal inspired the aged Simeon to come to the temple to wait for the Christ and Anna to devote the whole of her widowhood to prayer in the Temple. Zeal compels Jesus to make a whip of cords to drive out the animal sellers and money changers profaning the sanctuary with idolatry, thievery, exploitation, and corruption.
Zeal transfigures a worshipper's sight to perceive the glorious architecture and carvings, the magnificent embroidered curtain, the silent holy of holies of the Temple as a mere shadow of something unseen, un-seeable, and subtle. Zeal moves truly great people toward striving to visibly manifest the Temple of Christ’s body through justice, peace, respect, understanding, holiness, and love.
With zeal, we preach the cross even while it comes out sounding like foolishness, said St. Paul (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
Nevertheless, fools or not, zealous or not, you and I are the living stones of the Temple. Perhaps only a fool can grasp this weird symmetry of grace.
Foolishly yours as always, suzanne
Meditation One (introit) stark warning
I read the cleansing of the temple as a stark warning against any and every false sense of security. Misplaced allegiances, religious presumption, pathetic excuses, smug self-satisfaction, spiritual complacency, nationalist zeal, political idolatry, and economic greed in the name of God are only some of the tables that Jesus would overturn in his own day and in ours.
His coming means a purge. So it is always not less with the shrine of our hearts than with the … Temple.
- William Temple 1881-1944
Baal, 14-12 BCE, Bronze Figurine, Louvre
You shall not make for yourself an idol … Exodus 20:4a
And at noon Elijah mocked (the priests of Ba’al), saying, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." -1Kings 18:27 Footnote in the Oxford Annotated Bible: One of the sharpest satires on paganism ever penned. He has gone aside is probably a euphemism for attending to natural needs.
Their idols are silver and gold, they work of human hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; eyes have they, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; feet, but they cannot walk; they make no sound with their throat. Those who make them are like them, and so are all who put their trust in them. Psalm 115:4-8
God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple: all you who believe in Christ and whose belief makes you love him.
Real belief in Christ means love of Christ: it is not the belief of the demons who believed without loving and therefore despite their belief said: What do you want with us, Son of God?
No; let our belief be full of love for him we believe in, so that instead of saying: What do you want with us, we may rather say: We belong to you, you have redeemed us.
All who believe in this way are like the living stones which go to build God’s temple, and like the rot-proof timber used in the framework of the ark which the flood waters could not submerge. It is in this temple, that is, in ourselves, that prayer is addressed to God and heard by him.
–Augustine 354-430 Expositions on the Psalms
For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. -Hebrews 9:24
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all people life and breath and everything else. -Acts 17:24-5
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?
-1 Corinthians 6:19
The Expulsion of the Money Changers, Giotto, 1304-06
Meditation Two(insight) the soul's den of thieves
The soul, the conscience of the faithful, is also the temple and house of God. Should this soul bring forth wicked thoughts, towards the injuring of our neighbor, these will settle there like robbers in a cave, slaying one by one those who pass by, thrusting the swords of their malice into those who are without fault. The faithful soul is now no longer a house of prayer, but a den of thieves; scorning the innocence and simplicity of holiness, it tries to injure its neighbor. But since we are instructed without ceasing against all such perversities of conduct by the words of the Redeemer throughout the sacred pages, even now Christ is doing what we are told he then did: "And he was teaching daily in the temple." For Truth teaches daily in the temple when it carefully instructs the mind of the faithful.
-Gregory the Great homily 39, quoted from Gail Ramshaw's Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary
Meditation Three (integration) the inner temple
Today we seem to have lost a sense of the role and place of our bodies. Many of us are not aware of the sacred space within us, the place where we can reflect and contemplate, the space from which wonderment can flow as we look at the mountains, the sky, the flowers, the fruits and all that is beautiful in our universe, the space where we can contemplate works of art. This place, which is the deepest in us all, is the place of our very personhood, the place of inner peace where God dwells and where we receive the light of life and the murmurings of the Spirit of God. It is the place in which we make life choices and from which flows our love for others.
-Jean Vanier Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John
The Last Word
And I promise you, yes I promise you, my God, that I shall try to find a "home" and a roof for you in as many houses as possible. There are so many empty houses, where I will bring you in as guest of honor.
-Etty Hillesum 1914-1943
Not quite finished for deadline ... Had a rash of retreats, and now helping with new grandchild. update: home now and working on sermon for this text. I probably won't post here in time for you to write your sermon. But after explaining temple corruption under the Roman occupation, etc I'm probably going to go with the classic interior arguement of Jesus cleansing the temple within the heart. Every Lent, Jesus challenges the bonanza bargain basement market-place of my soul. -Suzanne (a.k.a. "Amma")