HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: “In the temple Jesus found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told them, ‘Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’” (John 2:14-16)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon
Were these temple merchants evil people? No. Were they purposely defiling the temple? No. They were guilty, though, of a certain idolatry, selling earthly, material goods in a place which by its very definition represented the eternal, spiritual goods that could not be sold or purchased by any mortal. The marketplace was dedicated to human exchange, two people bartering, each receiving something of earthly value. But the temple was dedicated to spiritual exchange, people receiving eternal goods from the generous hand of God. To confuse the purposes of market and temple was forgivable ignorance at the least, profound idolatry at the worst. And Jesus entered upon the scene of such human folly exploding in anger, chastising the temple merchants for cheapening the eternal goods of God.
While Jesus berated the temple merchants for making God’s house a marketplace, expelling those who were offering temporal goods to worshippers who were searching for eternal goods, today’s gospel story invites us to turn the tables on the situation. Certainly, we are not to bring the marketplace into the temple, but what about bringing the temple into the marketplace? What about bringing Christian values to our business transactions? What about bringing Christian values to every aspect of our lives? This is certainly a hot topic in our American culture where church-state separation is sacrosanct, but need one violate that healthy separation in living a committed Christian life at all times and in all places? I think not. Let a brief news article serve to illustrate:
“The craftsmen wipe their hands on their shirts and pants as sawdust settles throughout the room. It is time, as happens at least three times a day, for the contracting firm to pray. It’s not unusual, when the spirit moves them toward prayer, for employees and subcontractors who are dispersed at jobs throughout the state to join in by walkie-talkie. Folks at the Naugatuck, Connecticut-based Sullivan Brothers Remodeling have been stopping for prayer so long that they have it down to a science. ‘People who join us in the company, or our subcontractors and other people, just see how natural it is to have a faith life in our work,’ said Jim Sullivan, who with his brother, John, founded the contracting company 30 years ago. ‘Our work isn’t just a job. It’s a vocation.’” (Catholic News Service)
Certainly, Sullivan Brothers Remodeling stands in extreme contrast to the example of the gospel’s money changers in the temple. The Sullivan Brothers have unashamedly brought the temple into the marketplace, and it’s their very boldness in doing so that has made their story newsworthy. What about the rest of us, though? How can we, timid or even embarrassed by our faith, emulate their example, infusing our daily lives with Christian witness? How can we, perhaps in manner less obtrusive, bring the temple into the marketplace?
We can do this by carrying with us at all times a mindfulness that, indeed, Jesus lives within us. Through our baptism we have become God’s holiest temple, a more glorious edifice than anything human hands have ever made. We are, each of us, a direct creation of God, each one of us a tabernacle, a temple, where God has taken up eternal residence. Because of this then, we truly carry the Jesus who dwells within into every marketplace, business establishment, into every human encounter that may be ours during the course of a day. If we can be ever mindful of this reality, then we never really leave the temple confines for the marketplace, for we are God’s holy temple.