Daily Homily: Jesus Entered the Temple

Friday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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Revelation 10:8-11
Psalm 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131
Luke 19:45-48

In the Book of Revelation, we are told that John was taken up into heaven to see the worship of God the Creator and the Lamb of God by the angels and saints, the breaking of the seven seals by the Lamb, and the unleashing of divine chastisement upon the earth.

Chapter Nine concludes with the impeding destruction of Jerusalem: just as Daniel prophesied about the destruction of Babylon by the Medo-Persians, John foresees the destruction of Jerusalem, the new Babylon. “In the Old Testament, the Babylonians came and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. The corrupt leaders of Jerusalem, the new Babylon, destroyed the body of Christ, the true temple (cf. Jn 2:19-22). They preferred an earthly temple, made of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, to the true temple, Christ” (M. Barber,Coming Soon, Emmaus Road, 133).

John then sees a mighty angel descend to earth. The angel radiates the glory of the Trinity: Father (rainbow), Son (face like the sun) and Holy Spirit (pillars of fire). The angel holds in his hand a little scroll, which John is commanded to take and eat. Like the scroll that Ezekiel swallows, the scroll is sweet in John’s mouth but becomes bitter in his stomach. “That the scroll becomes sour, may be an allusion to Ezekiel as well, since after eating the scroll Ezekiel is told to foretell the coming destruction of Jerusalem and goes out in ‘bitterness’ (Ezek. 3:14). In the same way, John proceeds in the next chapter to announce the destruction of the city ‘where their Lord was crucified,’ i.e., Jerusalem” (M. Barber, Coming Soon, 136).

In the Gospel, Jesus enters the temple area and drives out those who were selling things. Jesus sees the situation of Jeremiah’s time repeating itself and refers to the words of God recorded by the prophet (Jeremiah 7:11): “You have made my house into a den of robbers”. In John’s Gospel, after cleansing the Temple, Jesus responds to the demand for a sign to demonstrate his authority for his actions. His sign is the Cross and Resurrection. “The Cross and Resurrection give him authority as the one who ushers in true worship” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, vol. II, 21).

Pope Benedict writes: “The rejection and crucifixion of Jesus means the end of this Temple. The era of the Temple is over. A new worship is being introduced, in a Temple not built by human hands. This Temple is his body, the Risen One, who gathers the peoples and unites them in the sacrament of his body and blood. He himself is the new Temple of humanity. The crucifixion of Jesus is at the same time the destruction of the old Temple. With his Resurrection, a new way of worshiping God beings, no long on this or that mountain, but ‘in spirit and truth'” (Jesus of Nazareth, vol. II, 21-22).

Jesus’ words (Luke 13:34-35) reveal his profound love for Jerusalem and that he works to elicit a positive response from the Holy City to his message of salvation. Instead of welcoming Jesus and finding protection under his wing, the people refuse his invitation. This refusal leads to Jesus’ words: “Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38). Jesus is saying something similar to Jeremiah, who recorded the words of God: “I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage” (12:7). “God is withdrawing. The Temple is no longer the place where he sets down his name. It will be left empty; henceforth it is merely ‘your house'” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, vol. II, 25). Just as the priests arrested Jeremiah for his speech, sentence him to death and hand him over to the princes, the chief priests respond to Jesus’ words by plotting to kill him (Luke 19:47). Jeremiah’s life is spare; Jesus’ life is not.

Jesus is prophesying about the inner demise of the Temple and this eventually leads to his discourse on the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem, the Last Judgment, and the end of the world (Luke 21:5-36). Before the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, the early Church used the Temple for preaching and for prayer (Acts 2:46). They still regarded and accepted the Temple as the house of God’s word and the house of prayer. But the “breaking of bread” is celebrated in their houses as places of assembly and communion in the name of the risen Lord. “The place of the sacrifices has now been taken by the ‘breaking of bread’… concealed beneath this simple phrase is a reference to the legacy of the Last Supper, to fellowship in the Lord’s body – to his death and Resurrection (see Benedict XVI,Jesus of Nazareth, vol. II, 36).

With Stephen and Paul, the Church sees in the death and Resurrection of Jesus, long before the outward destruction of the Temple, the end of the Temple’s place in salvation history. Stephen testifies that the era of the stone Temple and its sacrificial worship is past (Acts 7:49-50); Paul teaches that all sacrifices are fulfilled in the Cross of Jesus Christ: in Christ the intention of all sacrifices is accomplished. In this way, through expiation, Jesus has taken the place of the stone Temple as the new Temple. In his self-offering on the Cross, Jesus “brings all the sin of the world deep within the love of God and wipes it away. Accepting the Cross, entering into fellowship with Christ, means entering the realm of transformation and expiation” (see Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, vol. II, 36-40).

Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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