Bishop Banda’s Homiliy, Sunday, 3rd Week of Lent
“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem”. During the Passover, thousands of Jews came to Jerusalem to celebrate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
Every adult Jewish male within fifteen mile radius of Jerusalem was required to come. Many other Jews from around the Roman Empire made the trip at great personal expense.
The pilgrims enjoyed these celebrations especially the solemn visit to the temple which still housed the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments. This
was the most visible symbol of the presence of God amongst them. In this most sacred of all places the Jews hoped to encounter God in a new and changing way.
Unfortunately, Jesus experienced a three-ring circus. Money changers plying their trade –charging exorbitant change fees for personal profit. They turned the sacred space into a marketplace. Temple officials were selling animals and birds in the outermost Court of the Gentiles. The noisy commotion of these animals and the yelling of the animal vendors auctioning off their animals at inflated prices, made it impossible for the Gentiles to worship.
From the foregoing the temple was not serving its purposes as a place of worship. It was being used for trade and commerce. This infuriated Jesus. With rage He drove out traders and their merchandise. He poured out coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He charged them: “Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace”. The temple was meant to be a place of worship. Yet, the activities associated with the market were preventing the temple from being a place of worship.
It is a matter of “over familiarity breeds contempt”. Worship is turned into trade. It is a community preoccupied with other things. Instead of recollecting and letting itself be drawn towards the only One necessary; the community is busy with self actualization. However, worship means to acknowledge the transcendence of God and to respond appropriately.
The desire for money was so much. But how often it fails to make people happy. With money you can build a fine house, but you can’t create a home. You can buy a comfortable bed, but not a peaceful sleep. With money you can form new relationships without making true friends. You can buy pleasure, but not happiness. Money “opens all doors”, but it never opens the door of our heart to God.