As the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court he found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away and stop making a marketplace of my Father’s home!”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: Zeal for your House devours me like fire.
The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give you the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this temple has already taken forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?”
Actually, Jesus was referring to the temple of his body. Only when he had risen from the dead did his disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.
The basilica of Saint John of Lateran in Rome is considered the cathedral of Catholic Christianity, where the first Christian emperor, Constantine, was baptized. Through the Gospel we reflect on the true meaning of our churches and shrines.
First, we have to avoid any kind of defilement that converts the temple into a marketplace. We can understand the trade in Jerusalem temple because of the Jewish worship – oxen, doves, and money-changer. We can find excuses for the needs of our Christian worship, but easily around our temples, markets can increase in alarming ways. Let us apply the prophetic words of the Psalm to our behavior: “Zeal for your House devours me as fire” (69:10).
The final discussion with the Jews is full of insights. The sign proposed by Jesus is provocative: the destruction of the temple and the promise of reconstruction in three days seems absurd.
We are happier than Jews and disciples at this moment. We know the Resurrection of Jesus and we easily understand the temple as the symbol of this body and the Church as his spiritual dwelling. Our duty now is to increase our faith and to prepare in hope our sharing in Christ’s resurrection in the heavenly Jerusalem.
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