Third Sunday of Lent
The temptation to turn life into a marketplace seems to still retain all its force and energy in our day. I recall one commentator telling a market-orientated politician once “don’t you know we live in a society, not in an economy.” It is true, but of course, economic realities are a significant part of life and to some extent define the range of experiences we might encounter in daily living, and they do influence our capacity to enjoy life as fully as we might seek.
However, sometimes zeal for an economic outcome overwhelms common sense, long held values and even good judgement. We are surrounded by dynamics that turn services and institutions – that we once enjoyed for free or minimal cost – into ‘pay for services’ enterprises.
Having said all that, perhaps it is not so surprising to read in our gospel that the world of Jesus also wrestled with such dynamics.
Yes, there were good ‘justifications’ for all the commercial activity around the Temple – the need to change money (from unwelcome Roman coinage to Jewish currency) and the need to purchase animals (for sacrifice). All this might be explained away if one lowered one’s vision and looked at the Temple and its purpose primarily through the lens of convenience and logical necessity (and overlooked the bargaining, the jostling, shouting, the commercial contests and striving for custom and profits).
So, we met Jesus not so much protesting against the commercial world – after all he lived in it too and benefitted from the commercial activity of his disciples/fishermen and their business acumen. No, we meet Jesus striving to bring an institution back to its foundations and its purpose. The Temple stood as a place of encounter with God and a place of holiness.
We see too that in the vision of Jesus the Temple will not always be needed. His words are not so much a prediction that it will be physically destroyed (which it was), but that soon its very purpose as the place of God’s indwelling and presence in our world will be surpassed. His own being, through his death and resurrection will soon announce that he has become the medium for our encounter with God – “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”. He is the ‘temple’ now, he is the place and medium of our encounter with God.
Today we are invited to place our trust in Jesus – he has become the way, the truth and the one who offers us life. While institutional practices are necessary, the new Temple is not one made of mortar and stone but is comprised of those sitting around us in the liturgy, those to who we have given our life and those to whom we are sent in His name.
We are all living stones, we all make up the body of Christ. Let us live for him and each other (and try not to crowd our lives with too many money changers and those who sell oxen, sheep and doves).
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is the Provincial Superior of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.