18 Nov, Friday of Week 33
I Macc 4:36ff. The temple is purified and rededicated, at the first ever celebration of the feast of Hannukah.
Lk 19:45ff. Jesus cleanses the temple of traders and merchants. While the chief priests wanted to destroy him, the people hung on his words.
Purifying that Inner Temple
Today’s readings are linked to the purification and reconsecration of God’s temple. In I Maccabees this happens in Jerusalem, after its desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes; and in the gospel, Jesus cleanses the sanctuary after its profanation by traders in the temple courts. We might note the ways in which our lives and our church can become more truly a house of prayer, a temple according to God’s holy purpose.
Jesus has wept over Jerusalem (yesterday’s gospel) for failing to recognize its time of grace. Today he enters the temple and begins ejecting the merchants and traders out of the temple. His objection is not to the practice of sacrifice but to the abuse of religion for financial gain, in that the merchants, regrettably the religious leaders, were more concerned about their financial interests than the worship of God.
To purify the temple means to let God be supreme in our lives. That means that our business and financial dealings as well as our politics must be moderated by God’s law of justice and compassion. We should bring every aspect of our daily lives – family and neighbourhood, work and recreation – into the temple, so that these can be purified, sanctified and placed under God’s protection. At first, this program seems sweet and easy. But Jesus’ words and presence may be as stern as in today. While Luke does not say, as the other gospels do that Jesus made a whip of cord and lashed the money changers out of the temple, he cannot entirely smooth out the violent confrontation between Jesus, the merchantsand the religious leaders, who now looked for a way to destroy him.
When there is conflict in our lives, remember that while at times we may want to give up on some aspect of the Gospel, we basically want to follow Jesus and be among those who were “hanging on his words.” It is good to remember when his words were indeed “sweet to our palate, ” and we enthusiastically embraced them. As we renew our attachment to him, God can say of us, “My house is a house of prayer.” Every part of life, home and family, work and play, can contribute to the depth and sincerity of our prayer, with God enthroned everywhere in our being.
The Book of First Maccabees tells of the origin of the feast of Hanukkah (= Dedication), generally celebrated in our month of December. It is marked with a great use of lights; there is a special Hanukkah candelabrum, for rededication means that God’s light illumines all of life; nothing is anymore hidden from him. The new heavens and the new earth have appeared, with the new Jerusalem at their centre, beautiful as a bride.
First Reading: 1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59
Then Judas and his brothers said, “See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.” So all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.
Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshipped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
Gospel: Luke 19:45-48
Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.