Monday, November 9, 2009

Destroy This Temple And I Will Raise It Up Again In Three Days.

Today the Church celebrates the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.

The First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (47:1-2,8-9, 12)


An angel brought the prophet to the entrance of the temple, where he saw water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, as the fa├žade of the temple faced east. The water issued from beneath the south side of the temple, near the altar. Then the angel brought the prophet out through the north gate, and led him around to the east gate, where he saw water flowing from the south side.

The river flowed south and east into the Arabah, the valley of the Jordan River, and into the Salt Sea. Today, nothing can live in that sea, because of the salt. But when this river flows there, it will bring pure water. Where now no fish can live, there will be fish in abundance. Trees will grow on both banks of the river, bearing all sorts of fruit. There will be fruit in every month of the year, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. The fruit will be good for food, and the leaves will be used as medication for healing.

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Today’s Second Reading is taken from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (3:9c-11, 16-17).

Paul describes the church of Corinth as a building. By God’s grace, it was Paul who had laid the foundations, as an expert builder. He spent a year and a half in Corinth (Acts 18:11) much longer than he typically stayed in a newly founded community of Christians. Yet, wherever he went, he established the same foundation. Those who establish it, those who help to build it, those who maintain it, must keep in mind that “the Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord.”

Paul uses the expression “Don’t you know ...” ten times in this letter to the Corinthians, and only once in other letters. The Christians at Corinth were quite proud of their “knowledge”, but they had not yet begun to understand that the Church of Christ Jesus is not an edifice built by human hands. “Don’t you know that you are yourselves God’s temple, since God’s Spirit lives in you?” he asks. The jealous quarrels among the leaders of the church at Corinth were hindering the work of the Holy Spirit. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him”, he warns. Paul does not say how God might carry out this threat. Paul’s threat is that of a loving parent; his purpose is not to chastise bad conduct, but to correct it.

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Today’s Gospel is taken from John (2:13-22)

When the time of the Passover came near, Jesus and his disciples travelled south to celebrate the feast at the Temple in Jerusalem. Four courtyards surrounded the Temple. The outer courtyard was called the Court of the Gentiles. In this courtyard, Jesus found merchants selling cattle, sheep and doves, and brokers sitting at tables exchanging money, for coins with the image of Caesar or the image of Herod could not be used, but only Temple coinage.

The merchants and the moneychangers did not seem to care that the Temple was a holy place. They had not come to worship God, but to make a profit. When Jesus entered the Temple, he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here, and stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written “Zeal for your house will consume me”(Psalm 69:9).

Jesus’ words and actions were shocking to the Jewish leaders. Only someone with God’s authority had the right to act in this way. So they challenged Jesus to prove that he had such authority. They asked him, "What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."

The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. Jesus knew that the people would kill him. So he said, “Destroy this temple.” But he knew also that he would defeat death. On the third day after his death, his body would return to life. This is the meaning of “I will raise it again in three days.”

But on this occasion, nobody understood what Jesus really meant. It was only after his resurrection that the disciples realised the real meaning of these words. “They remembered what he had said, and they came to believe the Scriptures, and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

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