Wednesday, 31 December 2014

3rd Sunday of Lent Year B

How much do we value our places of worship? How much do we care about our churches? Also, how much do we care about ourselves as a Christian community? Are we coming to church only to fulfil our Sunday obligation and nothing more? Do we take care of the surroundings and the inside of the parish church we go to? Do we care about our Christian community and find ways and means to help it grow spiritually? Or has our church become a place of gossip; a place where we throw rubbish and other items we have just used (such as tissue paper, sweet wrappings and other items) or have no use of; a place of selling and buying of religious articles (or in some cases, even a place where business or other commercial dealings take place); or even a place for other activities instead of being a house of prayer and the dwelling place of God?

Among the Jews, the Temple was a sacred institution. It provided them physical space to offer worship and sacrifices, and also symbolised the very presence of God. For a Jew, the Temple became a sign that God had not abandoned his people, despite their failures, iniquities and weaknesses. The Temple therefore occupied a very central place in the Jewish religion. That is why in today's Gospel, Jesus was so upset when he found people using the Temple for business purposes rather than for religious purposes.

As a result of the temple being misused and being turned into another commercial place, Jesus became quite angry and chased away all those money-changers, sellers and even the cattle and sheep as well from the Temple, saying: "‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market." This caused the Jews to become even more determined to plot to get rid of Him. But what gave Jesus the courage to do what no other person could dare do? "Zeal for your house will devour me," are the Old Testament words that came to the minds of the disciples after seeing Jesus in action. Here is someone who is so passionate about truth, justice, fairness and right-conduct such that he is ready to challenge the religious leaders of his time in order to promote these values. Here is someone who is ready to die for his values.

Today, Jesus is looking for men and women of integrity who are willing and ready to serve, are courageous, committed and ready to stand up to challenge evil practices, immoral conduct and other vile acts, no matter the cost. He is challenging all of us to do what is right and proper in our lives and in our churches, so that others may see what it means to be a Christian. There is a time and place for everything, and we should strive to ensure that our churches and we too do not end up like what happened to the Temple. Let us pray that the same zeal that led Jesus to the cross and beyond may also fill our hearts and enable us to seek justice and fairness regardless of the cost to ourselves. Let us make our own these words: “Zeal for your house will devour me!”

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