Father Koch: The Temple was a sign of God’s presence

March 1, 2024 at 4:48 a.m.


Third Sunday of Lent

For Catholics, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican is an iconic structure. Its dome is instantaneously recognizable, the facade has comforting familiarity, and the great baldacchino and high altar remind us of the mystery of the liturgy.

Thousands of people from all faiths and cultures visit this church each day. For many it is primarily an example of the grandiose art and architecture of the Renaissance. For others, hopefully for most, it is the tomb of St. Peter and the heart of the papacy. This one church has connected Catholics from all over the world and throughout the centuries.

For the Jews, especially during the time of Jesus, the Temple in Jerusalem stood as such an iconic structure. The Temple that Jesus knew was new, construction on the building began just around the time that he was born. The first Temple, built by King Solomon 1,000 years earlier, was destroyed by the Romans. The Temple which replaced it was hurriedly built and not nearly as impressive as the first. King Herod the Great decided to build a Temple to rival any in the Roman world and embarked on the construction of the Temple that Jesus and the apostles knew.

While integral to the daily life of the Jews in Judea, the southern part of the country around Jerusalem, the Temple was primarily a place of pilgrimage. Jews from around the Roman world would descend upon the city for the great festivals during the year.

It is precisely for the festival of Passover that Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem. This was the primary festival of the year and brought tens of thousands of people to the city. While the great majority of those who came to the Temple were Jews, there was a large court at the Temple for the Gentiles. Here some Gentiles who had an affinity to the Jewish tradition but who were unable to become Jews, would go to worship as best they could. Others, no doubt, would visit the Temple due to its reputation as an architectural marvel, much like some visit St. Peter’s and other iconic cathedrals and temples throughout the world.

The Temple took on the feel of a Roman forum. In order to adhere to Jewish Law, the Roman denarius needed to be exchanged for the Temple shekel. Then the pilgrims and visitors could purchase what they needed for the sacrifices, and perhaps some refreshment as well. It was a true marketplace.

It is into the hustle and bustle of the Temple that Jesus and the disciples have arrived. Not unlike many a Catholic pilgrim who has visited any of the great pilgrimage sites and then complained “it was too touristy.” This is the gut reaction of Jesus.

The Temple, the very image of God’s presence in Jerusalem, was less a place of prayer, sacrifice and worship, and more a place to gawk at the beautiful buildings, enjoy the magnificent views and of course, to be seen. Lacking the intrusion of selfie sticks and cell phone cameras, it had taken on the familiar feel of a tourist site.

Jesus enters the Temple precincts. He has been here before, making pilgrimage as a child with his family, yet this time the urgency and context is different. Although John for his own reasons places this moment at the beginning of his Gospel, we are at the moment when Jesus is preparing himself for his Passion and Death. Jesus then takes the bold step of disrupting the economy of the Temple by upending the coin boxes, spilling them all over and mixing the denarii and the shekels.

Do not turn the House of God into a marketplace!

Jesus, clearly identifying himself with the Temple, foresees not only his own Death and Resurrection, but also the eventual destruction of the Temple itself.

Above all things, we keep sacred that which is sacred, and profane that which is profane. Jesus was righteously indignant that the money changers were taking advantage of the pilgrims by charging outrageous amounts of money for the exchange of coins, and for the sale of goods at the Temple.

The use of religion for personal gain, taking advantage of the spiritual needs, and the emotions of the vulnerable and gullible, should always bring righteous indignation from the disciples of Jesus.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

 


Related Stories

Third Sunday of Lent

For Catholics, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican is an iconic structure. Its dome is instantaneously recognizable, the facade has comforting familiarity, and the great baldacchino and high altar remind us of the mystery of the liturgy.

Thousands of people from all faiths and cultures visit this church each day. For many it is primarily an example of the grandiose art and architecture of the Renaissance. For others, hopefully for most, it is the tomb of St. Peter and the heart of the papacy. This one church has connected Catholics from all over the world and throughout the centuries.

For the Jews, especially during the time of Jesus, the Temple in Jerusalem stood as such an iconic structure. The Temple that Jesus knew was new, construction on the building began just around the time that he was born. The first Temple, built by King Solomon 1,000 years earlier, was destroyed by the Romans. The Temple which replaced it was hurriedly built and not nearly as impressive as the first. King Herod the Great decided to build a Temple to rival any in the Roman world and embarked on the construction of the Temple that Jesus and the apostles knew.

While integral to the daily life of the Jews in Judea, the southern part of the country around Jerusalem, the Temple was primarily a place of pilgrimage. Jews from around the Roman world would descend upon the city for the great festivals during the year.

It is precisely for the festival of Passover that Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem. This was the primary festival of the year and brought tens of thousands of people to the city. While the great majority of those who came to the Temple were Jews, there was a large court at the Temple for the Gentiles. Here some Gentiles who had an affinity to the Jewish tradition but who were unable to become Jews, would go to worship as best they could. Others, no doubt, would visit the Temple due to its reputation as an architectural marvel, much like some visit St. Peter’s and other iconic cathedrals and temples throughout the world.

The Temple took on the feel of a Roman forum. In order to adhere to Jewish Law, the Roman denarius needed to be exchanged for the Temple shekel. Then the pilgrims and visitors could purchase what they needed for the sacrifices, and perhaps some refreshment as well. It was a true marketplace.

It is into the hustle and bustle of the Temple that Jesus and the disciples have arrived. Not unlike many a Catholic pilgrim who has visited any of the great pilgrimage sites and then complained “it was too touristy.” This is the gut reaction of Jesus.

The Temple, the very image of God’s presence in Jerusalem, was less a place of prayer, sacrifice and worship, and more a place to gawk at the beautiful buildings, enjoy the magnificent views and of course, to be seen. Lacking the intrusion of selfie sticks and cell phone cameras, it had taken on the familiar feel of a tourist site.

Jesus enters the Temple precincts. He has been here before, making pilgrimage as a child with his family, yet this time the urgency and context is different. Although John for his own reasons places this moment at the beginning of his Gospel, we are at the moment when Jesus is preparing himself for his Passion and Death. Jesus then takes the bold step of disrupting the economy of the Temple by upending the coin boxes, spilling them all over and mixing the denarii and the shekels.

Do not turn the House of God into a marketplace!

Jesus, clearly identifying himself with the Temple, foresees not only his own Death and Resurrection, but also the eventual destruction of the Temple itself.

Above all things, we keep sacred that which is sacred, and profane that which is profane. Jesus was righteously indignant that the money changers were taking advantage of the pilgrims by charging outrageous amounts of money for the exchange of coins, and for the sale of goods at the Temple.

The use of religion for personal gain, taking advantage of the spiritual needs, and the emotions of the vulnerable and gullible, should always bring righteous indignation from the disciples of Jesus.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

 

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