“For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23)
Last Sunday, we read about how Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his only begotten Son, Isaac as a test of loyalty and we noted that during this season of lent, we are called to give up everything and anything which overshadows our love for God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. One of those things we must give up is our love for money. This brings us to our lessons for today:
1. In The Name Of Religion, Many Have Turned Money Into Their God.
Once upon a time a musician sang: “if it is not making money, it is not making sense.” This must have been the philosophy of the religious leaders who turned the temple into a World Trade Centre of some sorts. Even from the time of Jesus, the Temple in Jerusalem was already a renowned pilgrimage centre attracting people of faith from all over the world especially during the feast days. It was on one of such occasions that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles giving them the ability to speak in the tongues of the visitors to Jerusalem.
Jesus, being a Jew also came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover. What he saw was, to say the least, disgusting. One can only imagine the huge commotion, the loud noises of traders calling on buying, people arguing over price as well as that of the animals, even the smell of the animal waste and so on. How did things manage to get so bad? The answer is simple: “For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Dear friends, to be very honest, the greatest temptation facing God’s ministers today is the third temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:8-9: “The devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’” In an attempt to raise funds for Church projects, it is easy for us to slide into bowing down to Satan without even realizing it. It takes one with the courage of Jesus to really open our eyes sometimes to see how we turn God’s house into a den of robbers.
2. We Know the Truth But We Demand Signs and Wonders.
The action of Jesus must have brought the religious leaders to their conscience. They knew he was saying the truth but they wanted a sort of certificate of authenticity; a proof, a sign, some miracle so to say from Jesus to show them that He has authority to cleanse the Temple. St. Paul was absolutely right when he said in today’s second reading that: “Jews demand signs…”
In the course of His earthly ministry, Jesus was asked several time by the crowd to work a miracle, to give them a sign to show He was truly from God. Jesus never worked any miracle for the sake of the crowd’s applause. That would have meant falling into the second temptation, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” (Matthew 4:6). Nevertheless, Jesus always pointed to the cross as the ultimate sign.
On one of such occasions, Jesus said: “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4). The sign of Jonah is that as Jonah spent three days in the belly of fish, Jesus too would spend three days in the grave and rise to life again. This was exactly what Jesus told the Jews in today’s Gospel passage: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). Just as many did not understand the meaning of the sign of Jonah, many still did not understand the meaning of “raising the temple in three days.”
Unfortunately, we live in a world where Christians like the Jews of old, continue to demand for signs and wonders as proof of authenticity or power from God’s ministers. People want to see drama in our altars, they want to see some display of power, some show of healing, some anointing in the spirit and so on. Dear friends, the only sign we need is the Cross. Ever wondered why we have the Crucifix boldly displayed in the middle of all Catholic Churches? This is what we preach – Christ crucified. It is the miracle of miracles, the sign of all signs. It is the power of God and the wisdom of God, yet it is a stumbling block to those looking for signs and it seems like foolishness to others.
3. God’s Love For Us Is A Jealous Love.
In our first reading God says: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:5). Why would God describe himself as jealous? Simple, He made us and we belong to Him. Nevertheless, God gave us freedom to choose whether to serve Him or serve other gods. God’s jealousy for us is a protective jealousy, it is the jealousy that a Father feels for his children out of a pure desire to see that nothing bad happens them. Indeed, it is based on the background of this jealous love of God for us that He gives us the Ten Commandments.
Let us bear in mind that God gave us these commandments out of a motive of pure love. Think of it this way, you were so close to your father, the bond was inseparable, now he is at the point of death you happen to see him just few seconds before he breathes his last. He knows he is going to die so gives you specific instructions on what to do and what to avoid so as to live a happy and great life. Would you take those instructions for granted? Would you see them as a burden placed on your freedom to do whatever you like? Why then do we ignore God’s commandments?
It important here to make some clarification about the use of images in the Catholic Church. I have had many Catholics who come to me feeling disturbed after engaging in several debates with non-Catholics on the topic of images in the church. My response usually is this: Every image, every statute and every single item you find in the Catholic Church is a direct pointer to God. For instance, I just mentioned the Crucifix as the sign of all signs. Only a person who does not understand the meaning of the crucifix would assume that it is a form of idolatry. We shouldn’t forget that God himself also commanded the Israelites to make images and statues in Exodus 25:18-20.
Conclusion: Look Inwards.
Isn’t it high time we cleansed our temples from profit-making enterprises? Isn’t it high time we cleansed our hearts from the love of money and all other forms of impurity? Isn’t it high time we stopped flocking around self-acclaimed miracle workers as if we need Jesus to constantly prove himself to us over and over again? Isn’t it high time we stopped seeing God’s commandments as a burden? Isn’t it high time, we stopped being carried away by the gospel of prosperity and pick up our crosses to follow Jesus?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may my love for money never come in between us. Amen.
Bible Study: Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, 1st Corinthians 1:22-25 and John 2:13-25).