IN THIS Sunday’s gospel (John 2:13-25), we read the account of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, driving away sellers of animals that are offered as temple sacrifices and overturning the tables of exchangers of money that is used to pay the temple tax.
Why was Jesus angry?
Because the merchants and the money exchangers distorted the purpose for which the temple was built. The temple was supposed to be a house of prayer, yet they converted it as a marketplace where they performed what may be opined as opportunistic commercial activities.
Asked why he should be doing this, Jesus answers with a challenge, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” His listeners, of course, did not understand this. They were thinking of the physical temple – the building – which they claimed was constructed for 46 years. What they did not realize at that point was that Jesus was talking about another temple, the real temple, his own body which, as we know, suffered death but after three days rose again.
God, who made the world and everything in it, although present in the church building, is not limited by time and space. God is omnipresent; he is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is in Jesus, and so Jesus, in that sense, is the temple of God. So are we by extension in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. St. Paul rightly writes, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you and whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians6:19)
With our bodies as temples of the living God, what then should we do?
We are to keep our bodies clean – clean from sin and from everything that desecrates us. Jesus was angry with the merchants and moneychangers because they have used the temple wrongly. In the same way, Jesus will not be pleased with us the moment we use our bodies for the unintended purpose.
We were created to know God, to love God and to serve him. We were created to please him and not ourselves, and doing so is for our own good. To obey God’s commands as enumerated in the First Reading (Exodus 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17) is intended not meant to burden us but to enable us to experience the freedom of living in Christ.
God knows that at one time or another we will fail, for he alone is perfect. Whenever we sin and sincerely repent, we can always look at Christ Crucified, for as the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1:22-25) tells us, he is the power and wisdom of God. By his death on the cross, we can enjoy access to God’s unlimited mercy and grace.
May the season of Lent remind us of these beautiful truths of our faith and become more responsible stewards of our bodies, which were given the dignity of serving as temples of the Most High.