Engaging the Gospel – Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent (Year B): Gospel John 2:13-25

At first glance, Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple appears to be a straightforward demonstration against the commercialization of the sacred precincts:

Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For Him, the Temple was the dwelling of His Father, a house of prayer, and He was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce. He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for His Father.

–Catechism paragraph 584.

Perhaps while transacting their business in the Temple precincts, the merchants failed to have a “sense of the sacred,” or “respect owed to the mystery of God Himself and to the whole sacred reality [His name] evokes” (2144).

Perhaps some had even fallen into the temptation of making money their god. If so, that is a sin of idolatry, which does not merely involve the false worshiping of pagan gods.

“Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God,” such as “power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.,” and as a result, idolatry “remains a constant temptation to faith” (2113).

Yet the Lord’s action also has a much deeper significance: Jesus “identified Himself with the Temple by presenting Himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men” (586).

Soon, worship would no longer be centered around the Temple building, but rather upon the very Body of the Lord, the new Temple.

Benedict XVI develops this insight into the cleansing of the Temple in Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 2. God is withdrawing from the Temple of stone, with its worldly trading, and inaugurating a new way of worship, through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ:

The rejection and crucifixion of Jesus means at the same time the end of this Temple. The era of the Temple is over. A new worship is being introduced, in a Temple not built by human hands. This Temple is His Body, the Risen One, who gathers the peoples and unites them in the sacrament of His Body and Blood.

–Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 2, pp. 21-22

Thus Jesus has zeal for the Cross, what Benedict calls the “zeal of self-giving love,” that we are called to share.

Question for reflection: When have I been tempted to make a “god” out of something?