Lectio Divina


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, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
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.

3) Reflection

• 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.
The 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 all wealth.
Open my eyes and I shall fix my gaze
on the wonders of your Law. (Ps 119,14.24)

 
 
 
 
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Last revised: 27 October 2008