FRIDAY HOMILY: It's Time to Cleanse the Temple
We're entering Advent - A time to get ready
In our Gospel today, Jesus cleanses the temple in Jerusalem. His actions and words betray his fundamental concern - that the temple be used for its intended purpose, being house of prayer. While there are passages dealing with areas of physical health, how much more our Lord is concerned with what we put in our soul. The cleansing here speaks of more than just the Jerusalem center of worship. The temple of our body is obviously much more important than anything made out of blocks and boards. The psalmist writes, "We are fearfully and wonderfully made."
His latest crusade targets hospitals, which involves removing candy from vending machines and deep fried food from their cafeterias. Certainly, we can see that the mayor wants to make sure the citizens of the Big Apple take care of the temple of their body.
How ironic that the city's soul is not also a target for healthy food. Such annual attractions as Folsum Street East, where every kind of fetish, homo-erotic and perverse behavior is exhibited, underscore a contrary commitment. While New Yorkers are restricted in what they take into their bodies, they are free to do whatever they want with them!
In our Gospel today, Jesus cleanses the temple in Jerusalem. His actions and words betray his fundamental concern - that the temple be used for its intended purpose, being house of prayer.
While there are passages dealing with areas of physical health, how much more our Lord is concerned with what we put in our soul. The cleansing here speaks of more than just the Jerusalem center of worship. The temple of our body is obviously much more important than anything made out of blocks and boards. The psalmist writes, "We are fearfully and wonderfully made."
As we approach Advent, we are coming into a season of preparation; what the Eastern Churches call a "Little Lent." This is a time of self-examination and repentance in preparation for two major events - the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord and the Second Coming. This is why Advent is often called the "Season of the Already-Not Yet."
We are living in between these two events of earth-changing import. While the size of our sodas can make a temporal difference to some extent, how much more our soul needs a great deal of scrutiny. St. Paul told his son-in-the-faith Timothy, "While physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future."
Advent is a good time for a good personal temple-cleansing.
In Jerusalem, our Lord was quite thorough about this. St. Luke states that "Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, 'It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.'" (Lk. 19:45,46)
St. Matthew's Gospel goes into a bit more detail saying, "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, "It is written: 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you are making it a den of thieves." The blind and the lame approached him in the temple area, and he cured them." (Mt. 21:12-14)
If Jesus is Lord of your life, He must be Lord of your temple.
Obviously, this cleansing was not a case where Jesus felt that he just needed to quietly ask the "poachers" to leave. He overturned tables, drove out those engaged in unauthorized activities and generally caused a huge uproar. The chief priests, scribes and other leaders already had His death as their major goal by this point. This, then, had added insult to injury.
The presence of money changers and sellers of sacrifice was not only improper; it had also become too familiar! No one seemed to take issue with their presence, which in itself is a bit disconcerting. The meaning of the temple had been compromised.
If you are like me, there are familiar places of compromise in my personal temple. As a temple of the Holy Spirit - a descriptive given to us by St. Paul - I should also see myself primarily as a house of prayer. a house given to the Lord.
Pope Benedict underscored this as the root of our Lord's actions in his second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth."
"According to his own testimony," the Holy Father writes, "this fundamental purpose is what lies behind the cleansing of the Temple: to remove whatever obstacles there may be to the common recognition and worship of God - and thereby to open up a space for common worship."
Compromises are easy to spot, especially when we have something to which they can be compared. Again, Paul to the rescue with a list:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil 4:7)
Given the variety of gates into the soul - particularly through the eyes and ears - this list is compromised over and other again, especially in our world of media ...
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