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Although we usually read from the Gospel of Mark in year “B” of our three year cycle of readings, this Sunday our Gospel reading is taken from John. The reason for this is that Mark is the shortest Gospel and therefore needs to be supplemented during the year with selections from John’s Gospel.
This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of the cleansing of the temple. John’s description of this incident is much more vivid than that of the other evangelists. We are told that Jesus “made a whip out of cords and drove them out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’”
Now it should be noted that initially the money changers and the people selling sheep, oxen and goats, were providing a needed service. It would have been a hardship for people coming from a distance to the Temple to bring with them the animals needed for a sacrifice. Further, if they wished to make an offering to the Temple treasury, they needed to change their Roman currency for Jewish currency. The problem was that what started out as a service had become a business, and worse it had invaded the temple area. I suspect this wasn’t intentional, but had simply evolved over the years. Jesus’ actions thought reminded them of the true meaning and purpose of the Temple.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Exodus. It is the story of God giving the Jewish people the Ten Commandments. The giving of these “laws” was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel. In following them people showed their commitment to that covenant.
Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In it Paul reminds us that Christ crucified is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- As I mentioned above, I suspect that initially providing animals for sacrifice and changing money had been a service and a good thing. It evolved, though, into something that was problematic at best and improper at worst. Can you think of anything else that has followed a similar course?
- Do you think of the Ten Commandments as restrictions or guides as to how you are to live?
- How would you respond to someone who thought of the crucified Christ as a stumbling block or foolishness?