The Gospel reading for today, the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica does not show Jesus meek and mild, but Jesus angry, passionate and somewhat violent in his actions.
Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.
In John’s telling of the story there is a conflation of themes – the importance of proper prayer, and for purification and conversion, and of the replacement of the Temple by the worship of (by) the body of Risen Christ. The worship, the worship proper to the Church is not constrained by place and time, but is enabled by the very life of the Trinity, our prayer inspired and sustained by the worship of the Father by the Son (and therefore also by the members of his spiritual body, the Church) and in the Spirit. The passage from John is not just a bit of reminiscence about what Jesus did, it is about the dawning revelation of the much more than man that Jesus was and is, and that we can be and are, through baptism.
It is less about management of sacred space, and much more about faithful living even in the least overtly religious of places.
Imposing order on others is a relatively straightforward matter – It might still be achieved by overturning a few tables!
Learning to live right ourselves is a more challenging matter, even with God’s grace and the good example of others to assist us.
Perhaps in prayer today we might place our disorder in the Lord’s hands and ask him, again, for help in better responding to God’s will for us.
And pray too in remembrance of all those who have died in war: combatants and others who served the armed forces, and civilians. And pray for peace, healing, and mercy for all.
Photograph of the apse of St John Lateran, with the cathedra of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome. (C) 2014, Allen Morris
Poppies image (c) Peace Pledge Union. Check out Pax Christi too.