Today's iconic symbols of cities include the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Big Ben in London, the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, and the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In the first century, Jerusalem’s magnificent Temple was its icon. Every pilgrim to Jerusalem was deeply impressed by it. But Jesus wasn't impressed by what was going on in the temple. Jesus was downright angry.
Now, we may say we thought being angry was a sin. But reputable psychologists tell us that expressing anger is appropriate for the right reasons. “An angry person deserves praise if their anger is justified, directed against the right people, when the time is right, and for the right amount of time." (Bits & Pieces, May 27, 1993, page 1)
In today's reading, Jesus' anger leaps off the page. Like fireworks against a night sky, it explodes brilliantly. Jesus knew there was a price on His head when He entered the Temple. This was the day He should have played it cool. However, Jesus picked this day to accuse certain religious leaders of gross neglect. They had allowed the house of God to become a house of thieves. Jesus' courage is not just something to admire. It's something we can emulate.
So, we can ask:
Was Jesus anger justified? He says the Temple is a house of prayer according to the Scripture. He calls the temple “My house.”
Making the house of prayer a marketplace deprives people of an appropriate place for prayer and meditation. One point Jesus wanted to emphasize was deep reverence for His house as a house of prayer
Did Jesus direct his anger against the right people? He drove out the people who were selling things and making His house a den of thieves. We assume they were associated with the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, who were seeking to put Him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose.
Was the time right? He became angry when he saw people in the act of selling things in the temple. He threw them out while they were in action.
So, what is in this gospel reading for us today?
Our churches may not be icons visited by visitors from far away, but they are houses of God, icons of prayer. They are icons of God’s Presence. They are places where we, together with our families and communities, hear God's word and its message.
On a personal level, we can do some reflecting on the state ofour own hearts as temples for God. Are they like marketplaces too busy and noisy for God to enter? Are they too focused on material profit to take time to pray?
Does what we see make us angry? Is the time right to deal with selfish goals and unhealthy relationships? Do we need to make more time for God and prayer? Jesus is calling to us, just as He went on preaching to His enemies who wanted to kill Him.
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.