Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, "Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land." So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, "Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth." So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.
Then they said to me, "You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings."
Then Jesus 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.
Today's texts recall the reconsecration of God's temple. In Maccabees this happens in Jerusalem, after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes; and in the gospel, Jesus cleanses the sanctuary after its profanation by traders in the temple courts. We might ponter on 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 for failing to recognize its time of grace. Today he enters the temple and drives out the merchants and traders. His objection is not to the ritual sacrifices but to the abuse of religion for financial gain by merchants and religious leaders who were more concerned for money 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' requirements may be as stern as in today's story. As we renew our attachment to him, God can say, 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 gospel reports Jesus' displeasure at what is happening in the Temple in Jerusalem. Instead of serving its original purpose as a house of prayer for everyone, it had come to serve the interests of a few. Every human institution needs ongoing reform and renewal, and that includes religious institutions, like the church. The Lord is always prompting us to reform and renew our institutions so that they serve God's purposes more fully, rather than our own purposes. No human institution, no matter how revered, is perfect; it will always be in need of renewal, because it will always be shaped by people who are tainted by sin. What is important is to acknowledge this in an ongoing way and to be open to the Lord's call to repentance and renewal. This was not the case with those responsible for the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. After Jesus' actions in the temple, the gospel says that the chief priests and the scribes tried to do away with Jesus. To resist ongoing renewal is to resist the Lord. Our journey towards God, both as individuals and as communities, will always involve repentance, a willing to keep on turning more fully towards what God wants for our lives.