Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover, a customary time of pilgrimage. The outer courtyard of the Temple is apparently a chaotic scene. Money-changers are converting coins into proper denominations for the Temple tax. Animals are being sold for sacrifice.
Echoing the prophets of old, our Lord makes it clear in a bold, dramatic way that the Temple is a house of prayer, not trade. “You shall not make My Father's house a house of trade.”
It is no small thing for Jesus to call the Temple “My Father's house.” He is saying something about Himself: He is the Messiah, the Son of God. The Jews challenge Him on this: “What sign have You to show for doing this?” Jesus speaks of His Resurrection, the ultimate sign of His divinity, power and authority. His body is the new Temple. In Him, “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). Once again we are face to face with the reality and mystery of the Incarnation.
Of course, Jesus is also saying something about the Temple of Jerusalem. The Temple is God's dwelling place. The original Temple built by Solomon housed the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets of the Law and some of the manna. When it was completed, the Lord said to Solomon: “I have consecrated this house which you have built and put My name there for ever; My eyes and heart will be there for all time” (1 Kgs 9:3). The Temple is a sacred place, a house of prayer and worship dedicated to the glory of God. It is not meant to be a chaotic and perhaps sometimes corrupt place of trade.
We should remember that what was said of the Temple is to be said of our own local parish. A church is a house of prayer and the Lord's house.
In every church there is a tabernacle, containing not simply stone tablets or manna, but the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, soul and divinity. There, if you will, are Christ's eyes and heart for all time. We should share Solomon's amazement. God, Whom the highest heaven could not contain, came to dwell in the house built by Solomon. Our Lord, Who sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, dwells in a mysterious way in every tabernacle in every Catholic church of the world.
Every church is a house of prayer and worship, dedicated to the glory of God. In every Mass our minds and hearts are directed toward the heavenly liturgy. Do we not join our voices with those of the angels and saints in heaven singing “holy, holy, holy Lord”? In the liturgy, time and eternity, heaven and earth, come together. A church is not social hall, picnic grove or playground. It is a house of prayer. If a priest comments on inappropriate dress or folks coming late and leaving early, sometimes the response is, “Father, you should be happy they're here.” Yes, we can be happy people are in church.
That does not excuse a lack of respect.
A church is a sacred place, a house of prayer and worship, the dwelling place of the Lord.
Fr. Grankauskas is parochial vicar at St. Mary of Sorrows Parish in Fairfax.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)