Jesus goes something unthinkable to most of us who tend to see him as gentle and meek: enraged by what he witnessed in the temple, the vast system of money changers, wheeling and dealing at their tables of financial exchange, Jesus violently overturned these tables of currency. We don’t usually imagine Jesus as one engulfed with anger, to the point of reacting in a way that can only be described as violent.
Why this extreme anger? I think Jesus saw the very foundation of the Temple being violated by greed and wealth, destroying its purpose as a place of prayer, gathering people in humble worship. Many scholars see in this gospel scene the beginnings of the religious leaders wanting to kill Jesus. “Don’t mess with our Temple and its ability to bring in money,” seems to have been the dominant sentiment of these leaders. They were quite comfortable with the system of bartering that connected them with wealth and privilege.
What does this have to do with us...today? The Temple is the place where God dwells. Jesus was transforming our understanding of this Temple as being a structure not made of brick, stone, marble.... filled with beautiful artwork and stained glass windows. NO!!! The temple was to be built of LIVING stones, human beings, built up by the Spirit into an edifice of love. The very foundation being Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. In the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus was making preparations for the NEW Temple: HE would become that Temple made of living stones. He dwells within EACH living stones... within our hearts. Each human being, YOU, become a Temple where God dwells. YOU are a part of the structure that makes up the Temple we now call the Church.
What needs to be cleansed from your heart? What tables of greed, jealousy, bitterness, lust, indifference...need to be “overturned?” Every human being that looks honestly within, sees what needs to be changed, so that he/she becomes instruments of light, peace and joy. Our world needs us to be rooted in Christ so that we can bring healing to a deeply wounded country and church. Much needs to be cleansed, and on all sides.
We have a chance with a new President elect to cleanse our rhetoric, to change the tone, to redirect our energies to those excluded. This is a soul searching time for both sides to stop seeing the other as the enemy, and both sides engage in this horrible, divisive approach. We are all flawed and imperfect; we all need to change. But having a leader who sets the tone is essential. Let’s hope and pray that Joe Biden uses his leadership to heal, bring us together, reestablish our voice as one that gathers and not scatters.