“We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.”
Gospel Text: (JN 2:13-22)
Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.
This reading has always bothered me. The Jesus that I know and fell in love with is the gentle Jesus who cured the sick, cast out demons and brought the dead back to life. But this gospel reveals a Jesus who shows righteous anger. Now remember, those who were selling things were not part of the “Occupy Jerusalem” movement. They were not invading the temple. They were selling animals that were used in religious sacrifices. They were “making change” so the Jews could pay the “temple tax” with the proper currency. So why was Jesus angry with merchants who were providing a needed service? He was angry because they were not honest dealers. They cheated the poor who had no option but to do business with them. They swindled the powerless, and Jesus knew it.
The money changers in today’s gospel are a metaphor for our failings. Do we fail to keep the Lord's Day Holy? That is a money changer. Do we lie? That’s a money changer. Do we kill others by our thoughtlessness or inaction? That’s another money changer. Do we covet what our neighbor has? That’s still another money changer in the temple of our bodies. So what do we do about those money changers?
Thankfully, this is a battle that we don’t face alone. Jesus knew our humanity intimately, and so gave us a way to always get back to him. Through an active prayer life, through the sacraments, especially through reconciliation and the Eucharist, he helps us to drive the “money changers” out of our lives. He is never far away. He is as close as our very breath and heartbeat, if we simply call out to him for help.