The cleansing of the Temple is an appropriate Gospel reading for Lent. The work of Lent is very similar – driving out what’s not of God!
For Jesus the Temple was important. He called the Temple nothing less than “my Father’s house” and he forcibly removed people he considered to be acting offensively. It’s quite a scene if not a little out of character; “he scattered the money changers’ coins” and “knocked their tables over…”
It’s a wake-up call for those who’d think that the Temple, or logically by extension the Church as we have it today, can somehow be disconnected from the person of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, the disciples understand the cleansing as zeal for God’s house devouring Jesus of Nazareth.
Interestingly Jesus doesn’t turn against the Temple, rather he turns against the men and women disfiguring God’s house. That men and women have disfigured the Temple is no reason to turn against the Temple.
When the Jews challenge his cleansing his reply is intriguing.
He turns the conversation to himself, to his own body which he calls “this sanctuary” and declares: I am acting like this because I am the fulfilment of the Temple – I am the true sanctuary of the Temple – and my resurrection will be all the proof you need.
Just as Jesus is the true sanctuary of the Temple so he is the true sanctuary of the Church.
Just as the Temple was disfigured by the sins of men so is the Church disfigured by the sins of men. Indeed, even Christ on the Cross is disfigured by the sins of men. That’ll never change.
The problem is neither the Temple nor the Church, but the human heart. In the same way for example, speaking of Ireland’s economic collapse, the problem is not bankers, the problem is the human heart. This is the doctrine of Original Sin. It makes so much sense.
Just as Jesus didn’t abandon the Temple so he will not abandon the Church, rather he calls each one of us to boot out what’s not of God so that the world can see more clearly that this sanctuary here – the one I’m standing in now – is the sanctuary of Christ’s body and blood.