No deal. You can’t buy that.

3rd Sunday of Lent (B)

What was being sold in the Jerusalem Temple that put Jesus over the edge?gold_bag

The Gospel of John 2:13-25 specifically mentions oxen, sheep, and doves. But, this was not like a farmer’s market populated by vendors, or a quick stop on the way home from Temple. The goods and the market had a specific purpose; this was a place where animals could be purchased for religious sacrifice. The gospel also mentions money changers. A simple interpretation suggests the system of purchasing animals for sacrifice had become too materialistic and the money changers may have been taking advantage of buyers. Clearly this would be an unjust situation, but was Jesus’ rage brought on by commercialization and price gouging? Let’s go deeper.

Recall the reason Jesus was in Jerusalem. It was  because “the Passover of the Jews was near.” Every year great numbers of Jewish people made the long and arduous journey for the feast. Imagine making this trip, not only with your children and your elderly parents, but with your sacrificial animals in tow. For many it was unrealistic. Therefore they intended to purchase those animals upon their arrival. And what better place to find the finest, most perfect and unblemished animals than in the temple area where  people understood such things? Makes perfect sense.  But not to Jesus. What was it about this situation that enraged him so?

He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” [John 2:15]

Hundreds of years before Jesus, the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, and Micah denounced the cult of animal sacrifice as abhorrent to God, proclaiming what God desired was justice for the oppressed, the poor, and the marginalized, not the slaughter of innocent animals as an act of worship. And yet the practice continued as a kind of transaction initiated by humans to gain favor with God. The Jerusalem Temple had become the locus of human-divine deal making.

Theologian John Shea writes “Jesus’ Father, however, is not a deal maker. (God) does not exchange favors for sacrifices. The Father is a free flow of spiritual life and love that cannot be bought, bartered, bargained, or bribed.”[1]

Jesus said, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” [John 2:16c] He literally turns the tables on the idea of making bargains with God, and says no deal. This is not how God works. God wants your fidelity, your commitment, and most of all, your love for God, for neighbor and for all of creation. As an evangelizing people our actions must respond to each of God’s desires, not because these are pleasing to God, which they are, but because our experience of God’s abundant love prompts us to do so.

Today’s readings can be found here.

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[1] John Shea. Eating with the Bridegroom.Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005. pg 91

Is this your Authentic Life?

The word authentic, when we are referring to, for example “Authentic Italian Cooking” means the food is made with the same ingredients and techniques found in the original, and if it’s truly authentic, it ought to taste just like Sunday dinner at Nonna’s.

To be authentic men and women we need to recall in whose likeness we were created [Genesis 1:27]. Obviously, likeness does not refer to physical characteristics, but rather points to our ability to know and love God and all that God created. Put another way, God’s initial gift of love was the act of creation, and God’s entrance into creation in the person of Jesus Christ defined the unbreakable relationship for which we, as part of creation, remain mutually responsible.

Our authenticity is reflected in our response to that responsibility. Are we authentic? Yes! Do we always live authentic lives? Not so much! Our culture makes claims that being authentic requires only that we remain true to ourselves. One popular website states “We only get one life, so why waste it not being the real you?” Er, well, it’s a little more complicated than that. True, we are individuals, but authenticity starts with remembering WHO we are and accepting that we fit in God’s plan. A user’s manual for understanding this plan exists in the person and example of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if you want to know your maker, and you want to live an authentic life, get to know Jesus and actively share what you learn with others.