A wonderful reflection by Deacon Jim Miles!
Based upon what was published yesterday in the New York Times, I have re-written my homily of the today. It follows.
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.
Today, as we begin our third week of Lenten discipline, we give thanks to Holy Mother Church. We give this thanks because, without her guidance and authority , we like so many smaller “non-denominational” Christian churches could take a piece of scripture like the one proclaimed in the Gospel and run with it. We could develop a complete view of Jesus’ message based upon this one incident where he drives the money changers and merchants from the Gentile Court of the Temple in Jerusalem.
You may say to yourselves; “What is the Deacon talking about?” But taken out of context, this one verse could direct a group of unsophisticated believers down a path of violence. And there are people willing to listen to violence, especially when the alternative is to lie down and be walked on.
This is especially apparent today because it is the way we should all be feeling. If you feel about the Church, as Jesus obviously felt about the temple, then your blood should be about boiling right now.
Jesus became irate because he walked into the temple and saw that unscrupulous merchants had taken over a part of the temple normally set aside for non-Jewish people to come and pray – the region called the “Gentile Court”. Instead of accepting the invitation to worship God from this place, they had set up merchant stalls, taking advantage of Hebrew pilgrims coming in from all over the world.
These pilgrims would come needing to sacrifice at the temple and pay their temple-tax. They faced two challenges. First, if they were coming a long way, and most were, they would need to carry this animal with them to be sacrificed in accordance with Hebrew Law and it needed to be alive. It was much easier to purchase one at the end of their pilgrimage. The second challenge they faced was they were going to have to pay a “temple tax”. It was like passing the collection basket once a year. The problem here again was the temple did not accept Roman currency, only the Tyrian half-sheke was accepted and those traveling from other parts of the empire needed to change their money.
When Jesus entered and saw these merchants had turned a place of prayer into a place of commerce, he became outraged. Scripture tells us that he uncharacteristically use physical force to drive those who preyed upon the pilgrims from the Gentile Court. In taking that physical stance against them, he probably signed his own death warrant. Not only did he create animosity on the part of the Temple leadership (who were likely getting a piece of the action) but he also created enmity between he and the secular profiteers whom he had displaced.
We understand why the Lord became so upset. As St. Luke says, his disciples recalled Psalm 69 “…Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Now the question; Does it consume you? All but the most ardent Catholics will be unaware of what landed in the New York Times yesterday. A secularist group from Wisconsin spent $52,000 to take out a full page ad inviting us to “…quit the Roman Catholic Church.” That’s right, the New York Times basically accepted a blatantly anti-Catholic advertisement that attacks our Church as “…a tyrannical and autocratic, woman-hating, sex-perverting, antediluvian Old Boys Club?”
If past experience is any indicator, there will be little or no mention of this undisguised “Hate Speech” in the broader media. Just like the HHS Mandate, which has been pointedly ignored by the major news sources –ABC, NBC, CNN and the rest, this attack will not be reported for what it is. Secularists do not like it when the Church gets “uppity” and complains when their rights get trampled on. It’s OK for the Catholic faithful to be forced to pay for someone else’s pills and, according to the popular press, it’s not OK for us to object. Brothers and Sisters, we must object. Zeal for our Father’s house must consume us.
It is ironic that the very freedoms we feel are threatened by the administration’s stance - that conscientious objection to policies that violate our religious freedom are irrelevant, is being challenged by a group depending upon the same Bill of Rights provisions to protect their freedom of speech. We should all share a great sadness that this kind of attack is supported through complicity by so many.
Today our quest for the peace of Christ is once more disrupted by persecution. Those that seek only freedom from responsibility and to embrace the “sins of the flesh” have decided to lash out. Holy Mother Church guides us to remember that the Lord calls us to love our enemies so today, even as we feel the justified outrage at their hatred, we return what Christ calls on us to return – love. We must feel sorrow for those, so misguided as to think our moral character can be compromised by mere words. This action does have one positive impact – it reminds us that this battle is not won, rather it is just beginning.
Link to the open letter published by the NYT