In the cleansing of the Temple, one may see, among other things, the radical side of Jesus Christ. Clearly, Jesus did not “play it safe,” but engaged the “powers that be” in a provocative, very bold, even revolutionary action when he “cleansed the Temple” of “money-changers.” Jesus was, in more ways than we probably grasp, radical in its literal meaning of “going to the roots.” In this one public action, Jesus in effect overturned the most sacred, established, power-institution of his culture: the Temple in Jerusalem, and what it stood for. Jesus was visibly demonstrating that God is the God of all human beings, not of a religious cult or sacred tradition. In this one action, Jesus sided with faith over religious belief, with obedience to the Holy Spirit over religious traditionalism, with the true and living God over a mummified “God of the fathers.”
In preaching the cleansing of the Temple, one can emphasize many themes: The nature and purpose of true worship; the staleness of religions that place outward observance above spiritual life; the universality of the God of all creation; the truth that “Christ is the end of the Law” in the sense explored by the Apostle Paul; the need for a continuing cleansing of all religious institutions, including the Catholic Church; the even greater and more pressing need for ongoing conversion to the Gospel of Christ; the preference for truth and justice to merely traditional beliefs and ways.
Given our hearing of this Gospel story today, what shall we emphasize in our preaching and action? No doubt the formulations will vary in our four homilies this week-end, but my hope is that each of us hears the call to seek the inner cleaning of the Holy Spirit, and that we seek to share in the renewal of the Church through truthfulness, honesty, right priorities, deeds of justice tempered by mercy. Pretending to be religious and “holy” must be rejected for being transparent and honest with one another. Above all, each of us must seek again and again to become living temples of the Holy Spirit.