In today’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims God’s Word to an irreverent crowd: ‘my house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves’. Money changers and merchants extorted from the faithful who traveled to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices in the temple; the temple tax could only be paid in shekels, while the faithful would have had the Roman Empire’s denarii in their pockets. In addition to taking a percentage of the money exchanged, there were merchants selling livestock to be offered as sacrifices in the Temple. By Jesus’ time, the original meaning of the sacrifices-making sacred by sharing a portion of the harvest or flock in thanksgiving or contritely for atonement- had been supplanted by rules and ritual from which the chief priests profited. In proclaiming God’s Word in the temple, Jesus challenged the authority and integrity of the chief priests and leaders of the people on their home turf. The Gospel goes on to tell us that these leaders wanted to put Jesus to death because of this, but could not, as “all the people were hanging on his words”. Of course we know that eventually they succeeded in having Jesus arrested and put to death. But today’s Gospel speaks of the captivating power of the Truth that is God’s Word.
Proclaiming the Word of God is not an easy task. The prophets of the Old Testament almost always ran into resistance, just as Jesus did. The first two readings juxtapose the sweetness of God’s Word and the sourness of proclaiming it to others. As in the imagery from today’s first reading, the Word of God can be difficult to stomach when we have turned away from God. But ultimately, God’s promise is sweet, bringing fulfillment and joy to the faithful.
What are we called to as Christians today? Am I offering a contrite heart to God? Am I making the ordinary sacred by sharing it with others? Am I proclaiming God’s Word, in my words and in my actions? Am I speaking Truth to power?
- Moira Reilly (PVI-Jamaica ’06-’07) is a caretaker at Bethlehem Farm, a Catholic community in Appalachia that transforms lives through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices. We invite volunteers to join us in living the Gospel cornerstones of prayer, community, simplicity, and service. www.bethlehemfarm.net