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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jesus' Outrage At The Temple - Homily, 3rd Sunday of Lent

Angry Jesus

Homily: Jesus’ Outrage At The Temple
It’s common to think of Jesus as a gentle and peace-loving man, but in today’s gospel we also see a different side of him. We see him make a whip out of cords, over-turn tables throwing coins everywhere, and attempting to drive evil-doers out of the temple area. Surely many were shocked by what they saw and witnessed…. but was there a point to his actions? Do you think the merchants in the temple area thought of themselves as “evil-doers”? Probably not! Do you think there were always merchants in the temple area? No, I don’t believe so. I would assume that one day a man set-up shop, and entrepreneur, and then another, then another, and overtime a large market developed. There might have been some initial dissatisfaction over the selling of goods in the temple area, but overtime the gradual process of adding more and more merchants probably went unnoticed by most of the city inhabitants, and after a few years it not only became normal, but was expected. Can you begin to see some similarity between this example and what has happened in our society? Or maybe you can’t.

Just the other day I was visiting with a man who described a recent event that left him troubled. He told me that more than 10 years ago he removed the television from his home because he and his wife were fearful of what was being shown, fearful of the inflectional power of TV, fearful of how it could negatively affect them and their children. He stated that since that time, 10 years ago he hadn’t really seen much Television. He then informed me that he had recently returned from a family visit in which he watched a variety of TV shows with his relatives. He reported that he was shocked at what appeared to be in almost every show: overt homosexuality, varying levels of nudeness, pre-marital sex, affairs, and ramped immorality. And what bothered him the most was that his relatives, who were good Catholics, saw nothing wrong with the content of the shows. They had become “Desensitized”! In response to his relative’s apparent non-reaction, He initially questioned himself?
Is Homosexuality ok?
Is Pre-Marital sex ok?
Is looking at Naked and Half-Naked people ok?
Is having an Affair ok?
Then he stated that he snapped out of it, recalling that all those behaviors were not only wrong, but sinful…. and that they actually separated people from God.

How many of us have been de-sensitized through a gradual process, and now find little to no objection to what is so prevalent in society? If Jesus were here today, do you think he would find our current culture Acceptable? Holy? And Just? I don’t think so! But he isn’t here, at least not in a physical human form, but we are. We are His Body…. The Church. And as we begin to look at the world around us through Christ’s eyes, we begin to see a much different world…. We can begin to see how certain behaviors and attitudes have evolved, leaded many away from God and his ways. So how do we respond to this awakening? Do we just sit back and hope and pray that things will change. Or do we find the courage to stand up against most of society and say
“This is wrong”! I can’t help but think of what Saint Padre Pio said and is so often quoted for… “The greatest sin is the sin of omission…. Of doing nothing in the face of evil.”

Many of you are aware that something is happening in our culture right now that is threatening who we are as Catholics and our Religious Freedom.
The threat is so profound that all 456 of the Bishops in the United States have declared that the church is under attack. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have loudly voiced fervent opposition to the current Administration’s Act of Law to force Catholic Institutions, contrary to our beliefs and teachings, to provide insurance that covers Contraceptives, Sterilization, and Fetus-Killing drugs to all those they employ. This is a direct attack on Religious Freedom and on our Church! As Catholics, we should all be in an uproar about this issue. This is not a Republican issue, nor a Democrat issues, but purely a Catholic issue and a Religious Freedom Issue..

In order to gain additional insight into such a serious issue, we should return to the Gospel and look to Jesus. Why did Jesus make such a scene and what does this mean for us, his followers? To further understand His actions we need to know a little more about what was going on at the time. Well, the Temple system was the ultimate imperial and religious institution; a huge building like the Pentagon, U.S. Capitol, White House, and National Cathedral all rolled into one. Jews believed that God lived there, so once a year at Passover, all Jews had to go there and offer sacrifice to God. But the Pharisees and scribes, working with the empire, had a total scam going on and made a fortune off the poor in the name of God. Each year at Passover, the population of Jerusalem jumped from 50,000 to 180,000 people. There were 18,000 lambs slaughtered in the Temple. And the poor had to buy expensive doves if they were to offer sacrifice to God. Jesus would have none of it.
He simply could not tolerate injustice, especially in the name of God.
He couldn't stand oppression of the poor. He could not allow unjust structures and institutions to take advantage of those they were to serve, so he confronted this unjust structure head on. Jesus does not merely want lower prices for the poor. He's not trying to help us get a good deal on doves.
He does not try to reform the Temple. He overturns the tables of the money changers, gets rid of the animals and calls for an end to the entire system.
This is the boldest political statement in the entire Bible. Jesus is definitely not passive or quiet or apolitical in the face of injustice.
He is active, challenging, daring, provocative, and even scandalous.
Jesus is trying to teach us something here…… Is there some similarity in regard to our current state as Catholics and what is happening in society?

Well, our temple isn’t being desecrated, at least not yet, but our church, our Holy Mother Church, and what she stands for is under attack. We are being told that our values, our beliefs, the truths of our faith are meaningless and we are to have no voice. So what is our reaction as Catholics…..are we listening to the Bishops? Can we hear the seriousness of this attack? Or have we fallen victim to the devil’s plan to slowly separate us from Catholic virtue, Catholic morality, and from what we have always experience here in America - Religious Freedom.

What will you do in light of this crisis? Will you be active, challenging, daring, provocative, and even possibly scandalous? Or will you be what Saint Padre Pio so warned us against….. Doing nothing while evil prevails.


This is our wake-up call…..Are we listening?

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