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Saturday, November 8, 2014



The 32nd Sunday this year falls on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica which is the mother church of Christendom.  There are four major basilicas in the world which are all found in Rome:  St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Lateran.  All the other basilicas distributed around the world are called minor basilicas.  The Lateran Basilica which is also known as St. John the Lateran is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. This basilica contains two of the most important relics in the Church namely the skulls of Sts. Peter and Paul placed on top of the main altar of the basilica.  It holds the primacy of importance over all other churches in the world, being the Cathedral of Rome which in simple terms is the church of the pope. 
Today we meditate on the Cleansing of the Temple  in the gospel of St. John.  The Temple of Jerusalem, built by Herod was also called the “Second Temple” and was  considered the most beautiful building in the world during that time.  The temple was the centre of the Jewish religious life being the locus of the sacrificial offerings of the Jews.  At the centre of the temple was the “Holy of holies” which was a room that contained the most important Jewish artefact: the Ark of the Covenant which housed the two tablets of the Ten Commandments.  
Why did Jesus cleanse the temple?   The cleansing was more than revolutionary; it was revelatory!   It revealed the cancerous state of Judaism represented by the woundedness of the temple system that refused to heal.  Because of the law that required every adult male (who lived within the 10-kilometer radius around the temple) to do an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the temple became the centre of the sacrificial life of the Jews.  The temple had a complex business system which was controlled by the Jewish priests.  Instead of carrying the animals for kilometres, it was more convenient to just buy them in the temple.  The price of the animals was controlled by the priests.  Before one could buy the animals, he had to change the coin bearing the face of Caesar with the temple coin which was the accepted currency in the temple.  The rate of the “currency exchange” was again controlled by the priests.   With this lucrative temple business, sacrificing animals in the temple became an extreme burden for the Jews.  It was a concrete example when religion is used to enslave believers by the self-serving machination of its religious leaders.  It nullified the very act of sacrificing animals which became an abomination in the sight of God when the poor sacrificed their lives in the altar of greed and self-absorption.  “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.”
It was also revelatory because when the earthly temple failed its purpose to bear the presence of the Divine, God himself became the temple in the person of Jesus Christ.  But the old temple had to be destroyed to give way to the new temple not made of human hands.    The new temple, now the Body of Christ, as was the Temple of Jerusalem, always needs cleansing (Ecclesia semper reformanda).  She requires a constant slashing of her excesses and freedom from self-absorbing leaders in order to be the true dwelling place of the Father and the Holy Spirit.  We are not just talking here about the Catholic Church but also the temple of our bodies as being reminded of us by St. Paul in the Second Reading;  "Do you know that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you...."

Slash me, o God me from the excesses that shackle me; free me from the monsters that continuously enslave me; take me away from the self-absorbing abyss that engulfs me!  Un-self me of everything non-divine and lead me to the true temple in the very heart of my being.  There I shall worship and love you.  Amen!

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