by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
March 7, 2012
Accompanied by His disciples, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for the first time to celebrate the Passover. Looking out over the grounds surrounding the Temple, He finds an unexpected sight. Sellers of oxen, sheep and doves offering the pilgrims the animals they need to sacrifice in honor of God. Money-changers settled at their tables, trafficking in the exchange of pagan coins for the sole official currency accepted by the priests.
Jesus is filled with anger. The narrator describes His reaction very graphically. With a whip, He chases the animals from the holy grounds, overturns the tables of the money-changers, throwing their money to the ground, and screams, "Don't make My Father's house into a marketplace."
Jesus feels like a stranger in that place. What His eyes are seeing has nothing to do with true worship of His Father. The Temple religion has become a business where the priests are looking for good incomes and where the pilgrims try to "buy" God with their offerings. Jesus surely recalls the words of the prophet Hosea that He would repeat more than once throughout His life: "Thus says God: I desire love, not sacrifice."
That Temple was not the house of a Father God where everyone greets each other as brothers and sisters. Jesus can't see in it that "family of God" which He wants to keep forming with His followers. It is nothing but a market where everyone seeks his own business deal.
Let's not think that Jesus is condemning a primitive, poorly evolved religion. His criticism is deeper. God can not be the protector and procuror of a religion woven from personal interest and selfishness. God is a Father who can only be worshipped by working for a more fraternal and supportive human community.
Almost without realizing it, today we can all turn into "merchants and money-changers" who don't know how to live except by looking out for our own interests. We are changing the world into a great market where everything is bought and sold, and we run the risk of even experiencing our relationship with the Mystery of God in a mercantile way.
We must make our Christian communities spaces where we can all feel that we are in "the Father's house". A warm and welcoming house where no one is shut out, where no one is excluded or discriminated against. A house where we learn to listen to the suffering of God's most helpless children and not our own self interest. A house where we can invoke God as Father because we feel like His children and seek to live together as brothers and sisters.