Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace


By Mother Susan Rueve, O.S.F.
For The Catholic Messenger

M. Rueve

The third week of Lent is quickly approaching. Can you believe it? The first reading from Exodus lists the 10 Commandments. Of course, all the commandments are important but the first one, “You shall not have other gods besides me,” should help connect the dots to the Gospel reading.

In the second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is reminding us that if we are truly believers we will see that God is wiser and stronger than humans are. If we believe that Jesus is Christ, that Christ is God, that God is good, and God is love, maybe we should pay attention to what he says and does, which brings us to the Gospel of John. It’s a particularly impressive Gospel because Jesus gets angry — in Church of all places, in his Father’s house. In the same Gospel he also says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” What? This had to be confusing to some and offensive to others.

Jesus’ seemingly bad behavior was mind-boggling to me as a child. Whatever the lesson was for that Sunday, it didn’t reach me. I could not get past the visualization of Jesus whipping merchants (with a cord he made on the spot), shooing and rushing oafish oxen, skittish sheep and dazed doves out of the Temple. I was picturing him overturning tables and scattering coins all over the floor with a forceful swipe of the hand. Utter pandemonium. I imagined merchants and moneychangers running for cover, Apostles and followers standing wide-eyed and dumb-founded. Jesus was mad and he was expressing his anger. Jesus had a temper? How could that be? It seemed so un-Jesus-like.


Many years have passed since my childhood and I have bumped into this Gospel every year. What usually comes to surface is the question that the Hebrews ask Jesus, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” He answers, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” When this Scripture was recorded, the author knew Jesus was speaking about the “temple of his body” because by then Jesus had died and rose from the dead.  Most people by now get that part of Scripture. I understand the importance of “body” as “temple” (both Jesus’ body and our own bodies), and how the resurrection is key to our faith. We believe Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from the infernal flames of hell and then rose from the dead allowing us life eternal, which makes us Easter people and defines us as Catholic Christians. Yet, I gravitated towards the event that takes place at the temple.

Why did Jesus get so angry that he started throwing things around and shouting? Did he lose control of his temper because of his human nature? I doubt it. He is the way, the truth and the life. He came to raise our human nature. He is the Divine Teacher. He was showing his “zeal,” passion and devotion for his Father. (Not unlike how some people who show their “zeal” for football or basketball.) Yes, he was angry but not in a sinful way. He was angry with the merchants and moneychangers for taking over and creeping in and spoiling what should be a place of prayer and worship instead of a place of commerce. He was angry because people were deliberately being distracted from God and God was being pushed aside.

In this season of Lent, let us ask ourselves, “Have I made my Father’s house a marketplace by not focusing on prayer and worship when I attend Mass? Have I taken the opportunity to reconcile my relationship with my Father for those times I pushed him away?

(Mother Susan Rueve, O.S.F., leads the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the Divine Teacher, Davenport.)

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