The account of Jesus cleansing the temple that we read for the third Sunday of Lent anticipates the announcement that Jesus will make about the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth. Within the context of the liturgy, it can be used as a challenge to the way we have been “Church”. In Peter, in his first letter, tells the newly baptized that they have become living stones that constitute a new Temple where sacrifices pleasing to God are offered. God is not pleased with the blood of animals or holocausts, he wants obedience. The first reading of the day, taken from Exodus 20 (the Ten Words) was selected to underline this. It is not out of place to cite Hebrews 10, here,
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me
holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in
So I said: As is written of me in the scroll
Behold I come to do your will, O God.
Note the mention of “body” here. It is the body that will be offered up on the altar of the Cross — the same body that John’s commentary on the words of Jesus who referred to it as the Temple to be destroyed and raised up after three days.
Jesus’ body will be offered up in obedience to the Father’s will. In Romans 12:1, Paul exhorts the community of faith to “offer up your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” By “bodies”, of course, Paul means “yourselves”, “your whole lives”. The “spiritual worship” that Paul refers to is precisely the obedience (that is faith) owed to God.
Jesus cleanses the Jerusalem temple to make way for that new Temple, His Body — the Church. The “new building” made up of living stones where a holy nation, a priestly kingdom — the one redeemed by His Blood — can offer up the fruits of the Resurrected life received at baptism continually to God.
For a review of this brief article, click on the picture above for a graphic presentation of the way John’s account of the cleansing of the Temple is related to other New Testament passages or go here.
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