Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up (Jn 2:19b)
Fr. Serg Kabamalan, CJM
The Temple of Jerusalem never failed to evoke poignant thoughts and aspirations among the Jews during the time of Christ as it occupied a central part in their life and faith. To suggest its destruction would strike a raw wound in their national pride and struggle for independence even as they fight for their own identity as a people and resist assimilation by a succession of foreign forces and cultures in the constantly shifting geo-political boundaries. The truth posed to them by Jesus would certainly be interpreted from this point of view.
Driving away all that do not belong to the proper worship of God in the Temple, Jesus displayed an astonishing confidence, decisiveness, determination and authority. The outward experience of seeing someone not from their ranks do something so old and courageous, when they only expected subservience to what they allow, attracted their attention. As a result, they lost sight of the more important aspect - the liberation of the people from the blocks and hindrances to true worship. They were preoccupied with questions regarding his authority which effectively held in question his action. They demanded a sign that would more be in line with the way they think.
Jesus, however, lived with an awareness of truth far bigger than their mind-sets. He revealed through his response a deep identification with the Temple when he declared to them the sign he was ready to give them, thus:
- Just as the Temple gathered the elect from all over the ancient world during key Jewish Festivals, Jesus gathers everyone into the Kingdom of God at all times;
- Just as the Temple was the central place of adoration, Jesus is the most perfect and perpetual adorer of the Father on earth (as St. John Eudes put it), and, hence, central to our adoration of the Father;
- Just as the Temple was the sacred place for animal sacrifice and for reconciliation with God, Jesus is the most perfect sacrifice who took our punishment upon himself, making our reconciliation with God definitive and eternal;
- Just as the Temple was the dwelling place of God amongst his people, Jesus is the very presence of God in the world; and
- Just as the Temple was an enduring sign of unity of God with his chosen people, Jesus is the eternal basis of unity of all in the communion of the Triune God.
What Jesus revealed in this amazing identification with the Temple has grace-filled consequence for us that no one can destroy. As we, in turn, identify ourselves with Jesus being the living stones that is connected to him who is the cornerstone, we are called to live and move with a consciousness that:
- We are gatherers of people, sinners and saints, into God’s reign!
- We are perfect adorers of the Father in the same adoration by Jesus Christ!
- We are a people of reconciliation, reaching out to others in the transforming act of forgiving!
- We are the presence of Christ in the world today, living God’s love and mercy!
- We are the manifestation of Christ’s union and communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit, a new community of the Resurrection!
When we come to full awareness of our identity in Jesus Christ, think of its power to engage us and change us at the personal level! How will these personal changes transform our families? communities? institutions? and societies? Face to face with the bleakness of our reality (such as the daily senseless killings, the deliberate twisting of truth to influence people and neutralize threats to power, the constant danger of terrorism, the marginalization of faith, the deification of the self in the altar of consumerism, and the stark poverty of the oppressed – just to name a few), the proper response therefore is not anguish, dismay or desperation.
In Christ, we ought to have confidence, determination, decisiveness and authority to drive away all that is not of Christ to bring ourselves and all those within the ambit of our influence to a life that perfectly adores God, i.e. a life that reflects the will of the Lord!
Lord Jesus, as we continue to make our Lenten journey, may we be emptied of ourselves to be ready to welcome anew our privileged identity as people of your Resurrection, empowered to do our bit in the social transformation of our communities. Amen.