In today’s Gospel reading from St. Mark, Jesus enters the temple area in Jerusalem and drives out “those selling and buying there.” Angrily, he overturns tables of money changers and those selling animals for sacrifice, crying out to them, “Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have made it a den of thieves.”
What did Jesus see? Was it the main activity of the temple market area that offended Jesus and how were the people were engaging in that activity? When I envision the scene Jesus saw, I imagine the buying and selling and money changing. But I also imagine that what Jesus saw was people cheating each other or haggling excessively over prices. People socializing and carrying on other business. People off in corners gambling, eating, drinking, and probably engaging in a lot of other activities that don’t seem very temple-like. What Jesus saw were people who had lost their focus, forgot the purpose for which they were there, a people whose focus ceased to be on God. I think that is what Jesus is reacting to when he laments what they have done to the temple, his father’s house.
But there is more than that going on. We also know that when Jesus speaks of the temple, he is not just concerned with the physical building. Part of the Gospel message is that there is a new temple, a new place of God’s dwelling, and that temple is Jesus. Jesus’ own body replaces the physical temple as God’s dwelling. Jesus is where we go to worship, Jesus is where we go for solace, Jesus is the source of our salvation. Once the Word becomes flesh, Jesus is the the focal point; it is through Him that we are saved.
This passage invites us to think about how we approach the temple that is Jesus. Do approach Jesus so wrapped up in the world, so completely distracted by our worldly affairs – with what we are buying or selling or getting or not getting, that we cannot hear Him when He speaks to us? Do we approach with a grudge against our brother or our sister, so that our focus is on our own wounds and the injury done to us by another, unable to truly believe in the love our God has for us? Or do we approach with hearts full of love and joy to be in God’s presence?