Third Sunday of Lent B
March 7, 2021
John 2: 13-25
By Rev. John Tran
What do you suppose the real point was to Jesus’ angrily throwing the money changers and the animal sacrifice sellers out of the Temple? It seems out of character with him. After all, Temple sacrifice was the main form of worship in the Judaism of Jesus’ time. It was not only expected, it was encouraged. It is true that the prophets continually warned against conforming only to the outward appearance of sacrifice as if it is the only thing needed to be right with God. They worried that people would not take that sacrifice into their hearts and internalize what it meant; that they would not live our God’s mercy and love to others. So why was Jesus so upset?
It does not seem that the point Jesus was making was dealing with the fact of sacrifice. No, it would seem that, like the prophets, Jesus sensed that the leaders and some of the people had missed the whole point. The meaning of sacrifice has disappeared and in its place was a preoccupation with the outward form and on making money out of it. Those promoting sacrifice were only concerned with money and ritual purity, not the inner disposition of the one offering it, or of seeing sacrifice as an outward sign of an inner life. They had missed the point of it all.
The important sentence is: “Zeal for you house has consumed me.” Their concern was not the Lord or his House, but for themselves. Jesus pointed out that his very body was the Temple, and we live out our part of his body by how we live with God and one another.
What about us? How is our participation in the sacraments symbolic of our relation with God? St. John Chrysostom asks us: “Do you want to honor Christ’s Body? Then do not scorn him naked now, honoring him here in church with silk vestments but neglecting him out there where he is cold and naked....The deed we do here in church requires a pure heart, not splendid vestments; but the deed we do out there requires concern and effort.” He concludes: “A brother or sister is a far more precious temple than a church.”
This Third Sunday of Lent is a time for us to get our priorities straight, even our Lenten ones. Our extra prayer, our fasting, our liturgies have a purpose. First, they are to turn our thoughts to God and our relationship with him. How is that relationship going? Second, they are to turn our thoughts to others, to the rest of the Body of Christ. Then all the rest, and especially what we do for others, has a context and purpose which lead to God.