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3rd Sunday of Lent - Year B - Fr John's Homilies

  1. Jerusalem held deep cultural and religious significance for the Jewish people. Many of their great leaders, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, reigned in Jerusalem during the days of Israel's glory. It was a place of kings and power, a symbol of the Jewish nation.

 

  1. At its’ heart stood the temple. The retaining walls around the Temple Mount were designed to hold a huge man-made platform twenty stories high that could accommodate twenty four football fields for up to a million pilgrims. When it was completed, it was the world's largest functioning religious site and until today it remains the largest man-made platform in the world.

 

  1. The Temple itself on top of this platform, was spectacular. The Holy of Holies was covered in gold; the walls and columns of the other buildings were of white marble; the floors were of carrara marble, its blue tinge giving the impression of a moving sea of water; the curtains were tapestries of blue, white, scarlet and purple thread, depicting, "the whole vista of the heavens."

 

  1. The Sanctuary had everything that could amaze either mind or eyes. Overlaid all round with plates of gold, the first rays of the sun it reflected so fierce a blaze of fire that those who endeavoured to look at it were forced to turn away as if they had looked straight at the sun.

 

  1. To strangers as they approached it seemed in the distance like a mountain covered with snow; for any part not covered with gold was dazzling white.
  1. During the Passover celebrations 158,000 cattle and sheep were slaughtered in the temple precinct as an offering to YAHWEH.

 

  1. Using a makeshift whip of rope, Jesus gets this great throng of animals moving out the door, their owners following after them to keep them from running amok. In a real sense, the narrative does not depict Jesus beating the animals; but instead he saves their lives from sacrificial slaughter in a monetary and religious system.

 

  1. The fact that he deliberately refrains from overturning caged pigeons shows his carefulness with the animals.

 

  1. This temple incident has been a popular episode in the life of Jesus. Church leaders and theologians have used the incidents for many purposes, but one of the most ubiquitous has been to justify Christian violence.

 

  1. Because Jesus has been thought to have used a whip on the backs of people in a fit of righteous rage, many Christians through the centuries have seen in that action an example for Christians to follow.

 

  1. Through this schismatics and heretics received not only whippings, but death sentences as a result of this interpretation. Moreover, the passage continues to be used to justify Christian violence, even in western liberal democracies.

 

  1. Military service and war are more acceptable for Christians thanks to this interpretation. However, another tradition of reading this passage non-violently began well before Augustine first drew upon it to use violence against the Donatists heretics.

 

  1. Whether intepreting the passage in a narrative reading so that it would have spiritual meaning or seeing the Greek grammar as disallowing that Jesus hit people with the whip, these nonviolent strategies effectively undercut any notion that Jesus’ action could provide a model for Christian violence.

 

  1. A close reading of the Greek text, simply denies that Jesus used his whip on any person.

 

  1. The text rules out using it to justify killing of any sort, since using lethal weapons is hardly comparable to a makeshift whip.

 

  1. Dropping bombs on cities is simply too far removed from this incident for it to be of use for Christian justification of violence.

 

  1. Throughout the life of Jesus and up to his very execution Jesus’ words and actions are totally non-violent.

 

  1. The NRSV and NIV have translated the text more accurately, which will hopefully begin to counteract 1,500 years of abusing this passage to support the violence that lies hidden in our hearts.

 

  1. With the passage of time and the familiarity of the cross or crucifix as a religious symbol it may be that we have lost the sense of what Paul and John are saying. We almost seem comfortable with the idea of a crucified Lord.

 

  1. Perhaps the scandal it contains would be clearer to us if we used the symbol of a gallows or an electric chair.

 

  1. Ever since Good Christ Friday our faith is not in God the miracle-worker but in the God who chose to be known through weakness and vulnerability. The love of the new and everlasting covenant is to be experienced not in the glorious parting of the Red Sea but in the love and forgiveness offered by Jesus on the cross.

 

  1. The true temple of God is no longer to be found in some holy and faraway place but is within, as Jesus has made us all temples of the Holy Spirit and in the process challenges us to know God not through mere ritual observance but ‘in Spirit and in truth’.

 

LORD, BE WITH YOUR CHURCH IN OUR MOMENTS OF SUCCESS, WHEN MANY BELIEVE IN US BECAUSE THEY SEE SIGNS WE GIVE – OUR SCHOOLS AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS, OUR LIVELY LITURGIES AND OUR RALLIES.

 

REMIND US WHAT PEOPLE HAVE IN THEM, SO THAT WE MAY NOT PUT OUR TRUST IN THEIR APPROVAL BUT ONLY IN OUR FAITHFULNESS TO YOU