November 20, 2015
Judas and his brothers said, “Now that our enemies have been crushed,
let us go up to purify the sanctuary and re-dedicate it.” 1_Mc_4:36-37,52-59
Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” Lk_19:45-48
The Temple area was the place where the Jewish people went to be reconciled with God, to worship God, and to remember the great acts of salvation that God had performed through the prophets and through Moses.
It was a most sacred and holy place. But it was also a controversial place. Being of such great value to the Jews, the Temple was often the target of attacks against the Israelites. In the second century BC, the Greek Seleucids desecrated the altar of the Holy Temple by setting up an idol upon it, for worship. Many of the Jews were not strong enough in their faith to stand up against their persecutors and instead they fell to worshiping false gods.
And yet there was always resistance of some sort by the faithful. In our readings today we see two examples of that resistance. In 164 BC, Judas Maccabeus recovered the Temple from the atrocious Greek rule of Antiochus and he restored it as a place of worship for the Jews. The celebration is still honored by Jews today as the feast of Hanukkah.
Years later, it was the Jews themselves who desecrated the Temple by commercializing the offerings that were used for reconciliation. In essence, the people were buying off their sins. And the sellers were taking full advantage of their religious requirement to buy. It truly was, as Jesus accused, “a den of thieves.” And so, again, we see a cleansing of the Temple. But this time the physical Temple became a sign of the true Temple, the new Temple of the Body of Christ.
As that Body of Christ, it’s all a very good reminder that sometimes we, ourselves could use a good spiritual cleansing. And so we might ask ourselves, “What is it that might be adulterating, our holiness?” “What idol might be set up in our own hearts that is stealing us away from our worship of the true God?” “How can we be – that re-consecrated Temple that Jesus wants us to be?”
As we come to this Eucharistic altar today, we leave behind everything that might be blocking us from His Love. And we celebrate the wonders of God’s great Mercy and Grace in our lives.
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