Former Professor of Philosophy and Jesuit Priest, Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J. once wrote that
Philosophically speaking, we are a nation of utilitarians and libertarians. We bridle at limits, especially moral limits. People often chastise the Catholic Church as being a church of too many rules. We hear complaints of putting people on guilt trips and hear warnings against the tyranny of a church of laws instead of love.
Jesus did not in fact assault the traders with His whip at all. He drove out the beasts, the cattle and sheep, and then he returned to upset the money-changers’ tables and utter words of denunciation.
The sheep and cattle were driven out and their owners were left to round them up as best they could. The money changers groveled on the ground seeking to recover their ill-gotten and scattered gains; while the sellers of doves for the sacrifices of the very poor quickly carried their cages away.
The time was the Passover. Every orthodox Jew had within the past few days scrupulously searched his house for hidden leaven and anything else that might defile, and attended to his own ceremonial cleanliness that he might keep the Passover according to ritual. Now there appeared one who took to Himself the role of a prophet in Israel and scrupulously commanded men to cease from defiling the Temple of their God. They hastened to remove themselves from the Court that they knew was defiled by their presence. (From “A Whip of Small Chords” on Bible Fellowship Union website)
Now What? 3 Points:
There are three perspectives that we can examine concerning Jesus’ actions in the Temple:
- Concerning the greater church: “Francis is pursuing a ‘spiritual cleansing of the temple, at the same time both painful and liberating, so the glory of God can shine in the Church, the light of all mankind’” (L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican daily).
- Concerning our personal spirituality: Jesus drove the salespeople out of the temple. Why? And, if you are a temple too, “a temple of the Holy Spirit,” what are the implications for you? What needs to be driven out of you? (“Discussion Questions” by Anne Osdieck. St. Louis University)
This echoes the words of Bishop Aphraates, a 4th Century Syrian writer:
Every covenant was proved firm and trustworthy in its own time, and those who have been circumcised in heart are brought to life and receive a second circumcision, beside the true Jordan – the waters of baptism – that bring forgiveness of sins.
Jesus, (Joshua) son of Nun, led the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land. Jesus, the Savior, has promised the land of the living to all who have crossed the true Jordan, and have believed and are circumcised in heart.
Blessed, then, are those who are circumcised in heart, and have been reborn in water through the second circumcision. They will receive their inheritance with Abraham, the faithful leader and father of all nations, for his faith was credited to him for righteousness. (Bishop Aphraates, Dem. 11, From the chapter, “A Demonstration” in De Circumcisione, 11-12: PS 1, 498-503)
- What must be cut away (from root of word, “discernment”)? Why?
- What are the results and consequences of such pruning?
- What then is regenerated in this new Baptism?
- Concerning our involvement in the greater church – the world: The law of God challenges us to establish a right order with God (the first three commandments) and with our fellow human beings (the last seven)
(Christ’s) message is an invitation to orient every act in accordance with the dictates of divine law, which demands the unflinching adherence of all, despite sacrifice.
Along with such a deepened understanding must go action. It is utterly intolerable for Catholics to restrict themselves to the position of mere observers. Pope John XXIII, 1959 Christmas Broadcast (As quoted by Gerald Darring in “The Perspective of Justice”).
Audio version of the homily is here: