Friday - Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
Father of all that is good,
keep us faithful in serving you,
for to serve you is our lasting joy.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 19,45-48
Then Jesus went
into the Temple and began driving out those who were busy trading, saying to
them, 'According to scripture, my house shall be a house of prayer but you have
turned it into a bandits' den.'
He taught in
the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, in company with the
leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they could not find a way to
carry this out because the whole people hung on his words.
• The Gospel
today describes the entry of Jesus into the Temple and how he expels the
dealers. Religion is used to exploit people and to enrich a small group.
• Luke 19, 45: The
expulsion of the dealers from the Temple. In arriving to the Temple, Jesus
made a violent gesture: “He began driving out those who were busy trading”. In
the Gospel of Mark it says that he “he upset the tables of the money
changers and the seats of the dove sellers. Nor would he allow anyone to carry
anything through the Temple” (Mk 11, 15-16). And in John’s Gospel he even
used a cord whip to threaten the persons (Jn 2, 15). According to the
symbolical gesture of Jesus, described by Mark (Mk 11, 12-14), the Temple of
Jerusalem, as it was functioning, was like a leafy tree, beautiful, full of
leaves, but did not offer any fruit to the hungry people who were seeking the
God of life. For this reason, in the violent gesture of authority, Jesus
declares closed the expedient or devise of the Temple and puts an end to the
worship in the way in which it was practised. It no longer had any sense: “May
no one ever eat fruit from you again!” (Mk 11, 14.20).
• Luke 19, 46: What
was wrong with the worship in the Temple? And he said: “According to the
Scripture it says, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer but you have turned it
into a bandits’ den! Jesus quotes two prophets: Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah
said that the Temple should be a house of prayer for all peoples (Is 56,
7). But reality was different. Strangers, women and persons who were considered
impure could not enter the Temple. They were excluded. By means of this text of
Isaiah, Jesus teaches that the Temple should not be a place of exclusion, but
of inclusion. It should be open to all. Jeremiah said that the Temple had been
transformed into a “den of bandits” (Jr 7, 11). The same thing was happening at
the time of Jesus. Thus, quoting Jeremiah, Jesus denounces the bad use of the
Temple. Religion could not be used to exploit people, nor to support and
legitimize the privileges of the directing class.
• Luke 19,
47-48: The authority decides to kill Jesus. The chief priests, the
Scribes and the elders, annoyed by the gestures of Jesus, decided to kill him.
But they were afraid of the people who were fascinated with the teaching of
Jesus. In the afternoon, before the threat of the authority, Jesus once again
goes out of the city and returns to Bethany, the name of which signifies, The
House of Poverty.
contradiction of the Temple: house of prayer and den of bandits. In the
Feast of the Passover, the pilgrim people went from more distant places toward
the temple to find God. The temple was located on a small hill of the city to
the North-East, a zone called Mount Zion. The people observed the beauty of the
temple, the stability of the walls and the greatness of the mountains around
it. This greatness of everything made the people recall the protection of God.
This is why they prayed saying: "Whoever trusts in the Lord is like
Mount Zion: unshakeable, it stands for ever. Jerusalem! The mountains encircle
her; so Yahweh encircles his people, henceforth and for ever” (Ps 125, 1-2). The
See of the Government was also in Jerusalem, the palace of the chief priests
and the house of the priests and the doctors. All of them said that they
exercised power in the name of Yahweh, but in reality, many of them exploited
the people with the tributes and taxes. The Religion was for them an instrument
to enrich themselves and to strengthen their dominion on the conscience of the
people. They transformed the Temple, the House of God, into a “den of bandits”
(Jr 7, 11; cf. Lk 19, 46; Mk 11, 17). There was a contradiction which weighed
down on the Temple. On the one side, it was a place of encounter, in which the
conscience and faith were nourished; on the other side, a source of alienation
and of exploitation of the people. This same contradiction also exists today:
on one side we have to contribute to the preservation of the Church and to the
maintenance of worship carried out with dignity. On the other side, there are
people who profit or take advantage of this to enrich themselves. The expulsion
of the dealers from the Temple helps to understand why the men who had the
power decided to kill Jesus. The Temple, that beautiful, leafy fig tree should
have given fruit, but it is not bearing it because an elitist group of priests,
of elders and Scribes had taken possession of it and had transformed it into a
source of gain and into an instrument of dominion of consciences (cf. Mk 11,
13-14). The trade of animals, destined to be sacrificed in the Temple, was
controlled by the families of the High Priests at a very high price, much
higher than the price of the market in the city. It was only in the night of
the Passover that thousands and thousands of sheep were sacrificed! With this
unjust gain they practiced charity by giving to the poor! The Kingdom announced
by Jesus put a final end to this exploitation, symbolized by the sellers and
buyers and of money changers in the Temple. “Nobody will ever eat of your
fruit!” Jesus presents a new type of religion, in which the access to God is
attained by faith (Mk 11, 22-23), prayer (Mk 11, 24) and reconciliation (Mk 11,
15-26). And it is because of this that the chief priests did not like the
actions of Jesus and they decided to eliminate him.
4) Personal questions
• Do you know persons or
institutions who take advantage of religion in order to enrich themselves or in
order to lead an easier life? Which was your reaction before these abuses?
• If Jesus would
appear today and would enter into a Church or in a temple of our community,
what would he say and do?
5) Concluding prayer
Lord, in the
way of your instructions lies my joy,
a joy beyond
Open my eyes and I shall fix my gaze
on the wonders of your Law. (Ps 119,14.24)