People in Jesus’ time faced the challenge of diverse viewpoints, too.
Today’s readings remind us of the struggles and commitments that help us to grow closer to God. They offer us an opportunity to reflect on the expectations for membership in a faith community.
‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ (Jn 2:18)
How is Lent helping you to prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery?
Are you able to connect with a community to help you along your Lenten journey?
What are the most important requirements for people of faith?
In the first reading, we hear the Ten Commandments given to Moses to proclaim to the Israelites. After the Exodus from Egypt, the people assembled at the base of Mount Sinai, and Moses ascended to receive laws for them to follow in their promised land. The laws offer a window into ancient Israelite ideals for proper worship and interaction within a community. The laws are reminders of requirements that come with membership in a community of faith.
The second reading, similarly, highlights the challenges of living in a society with diverse viewpoints. Paul writes to a community in Corinth, and he notes that these early Christians live in the midst of Jews and Greeks who might criticize their faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Yet he encourages the community to maintain faith and confidence in divine power and wisdom. Paul leaves room for inclusion of Jews and Gentiles alike if they recognize Christ’s significance.
In the Gospel, we hear the story of Jesus expelling the merchants from the temple, condemning commerce within the temple court. While their presence was likely not a violation, Jesus is angered by the buying and selling of animals, proclaiming, “Stop making my father’s house a marketplace.” On its face, the issue appears as a critique against business transactions on sacred ground. However, the incident probably serves a more symbolic purpose.
Jesus drives out the merchants and animals that were to be sacrificed at Passover, the commemoration of God’s saving power before and during the Exodus from Egypt. Jesus’ act dramatically reveals that Passover sacrifices will no longer be necessary. By the end of his ministry, Jesus becomes the ultimate Passover (paschal) lamb. At the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus’ crucifixion happens on Passover. At the beginning of the Gospel, John the Baptist had proclaimed, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). By expelling the animals and merchants, Jesus visually confirms that they are no longer needed because he will be the paschal lamb who will die and rise from the dead.
As we prepare ourselves to celebrate Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, we should acknowledge the struggles and requirements that come with faith. Likewise, we should continue to pray and reflect on the significance of the paschal mystery.