March 16, 2009

No Vendors Allowed

3rd Sunday of Lent (B)
John 2: 13-25 “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a

We rarely see Jesus in rage in the Scripture. But in our gospel for today, we see Him making a whip out of cords and driving all those vendors and money changers away from the temple. And he said, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Why compare the temple into a marketplace? A marketplace is dirty, chaotic, and noisy. It is exactly the opposite of a temple: clean, orderly, and quiet. Jesus gives deep respect and devotion to the temple because it is the house of God. We can easily understand Jesus in his rage against the vendors and money changers. They are the source of the temple’s desecration.

It reminds me of our own Quiapo and Baclaran Church in Manila. Vendors selling candles, anting-antings, medicinal leaves, and pirated DVDs literally occupy the church’s outer walls. I think if Jesus would be here, he would not allow those unruly vendors and hawkers to occupy the outside walls. He would want the church’s premises to be clean, orderly and quiet.

In the spiritual realm, we are not far from the unruly vendors and money changers. But we don’t desecrate physical temple but people’s hearts – which is also the temple of God’s Spirit.

How? We do hurt people. We make them sad. Sometimes we make their life miserable because of our uncharitable words and actions. We intentionally hurt others because of anger, hatred, envy, rivalry, competition and biases. When we criticize people, give damaging comments, laugh at other’s mistake, accuse others falsely, when we respond sarcastically, when we ignore people or give them a cold treatment, or inflict them with emotional and physical pain, we are actually desecrating the temple of God in others.

Deeply rooted in our hearts is an unruly “vendor-like” attitude that sees others as “appliances” or “things” that can be used or abused. We don’t see them as our brothers and sisters. We don’t see them as temples of the Holy Spirit.

The Ten Commandments (first reading) are precepts given to Moses – for us to know what true worship means. Worshipping God is intrinsically connected to respecting others. Respecting others is respecting God. That’s true worship! Honour your father and mother. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witnesses against your neighbours and etc. Jesus summarized them in two commandments, “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbour as you love yourself.”

If Jesus was deeply affected when the Jerusalem Temple was desecrated by the vendors and money changers, how much more when we offend and hurt others? We should be more careful with our words and actions. A well thought words and actions could console and lift a heart. A harsh words and actions could destroy a soul. We are not unruly vendors and money changers by nature. We are children of God: Born to love and destined to care.

In heaven, a big signage hangs on the gate:


- Fr. Willy M. Samson,SJ
Carmel Chapel
March 15, 2009

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