TRUE WORSHIP OF GOD
In life there is always a need for guides and/or sign posts to assist us especially when we are traveling along not too familiar terrains. Even on familiar grounds, the sign posts are meant to further guide our movement and assure us that we are on the right path. On our pilgrim journey, we too are in need of such spiritual guides in other to lead us aright and to help us remain on the right track. The commandments of God are meant to serve that purpose more than any other thing. As signposts, the Commandments are essentially guidelines for a perfect relationship with God and an honest relationship with neighbour.
Sometimes, we feel overwhelmed by so many laws, including traffic laws. All societies and cultures have laws and ordinances, and ancient societies were no different. For example, the Jewish Torah contains 613 laws. Some of these laws are positive (what a person ought to do) and others are negative (prohibitions – actions that are not allowed). In these 613 laws, 248 are positive, a number that corresponds to the number of bones and principal organs in the body; 365 of the 613 laws are negative laws which tally with the number of days in a year.
The Ten Commandments served as signposts to guide the people in their social and spiritual life. Furthermore, the commandments encouraged them to have a good relationship with God, by discarding other gods; it encouraged them to keep the Sabbath Holy and discouraged them from misusing God’s name. The Commandments clearly spelt out the rules of engagement with neighbours, such as showing respect for one another, and particularly for parents, elders and superiors. These laws further warned people against killing, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness against neighbour and against coveting neighbour’s wife and property.
Jesus was a sign of contradiction for the world. He invites us also to be signs of contradiction in a world that is drifting away from truth. An Editorial of Catholic Herald (July 11, 2003) says: “We are not set on this earth to help a fallen world function smoothly. If we are not signs of contradiction, we are nothing.” Therefore, all believers are called to be signs of contradiction in a world where materialism has taken the centre stage and where “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18).
In our second reading, Paul reminds us that Christ is: “The fullness of God’s wisdom.” The Greeks searched for this wisdom. Unfortunately, they ignorantly rejected Him. So, instead of benefiting from Him, they were misled by the wisdom of this world. According to Paul, Christ is the fullness of the law and the wisdom of God. So, whoever finds and receives him, will be filled with wisdom, and will never walk in ignorance. “Whoever receives him will never walk in darkness again” (Jn 8, 12). Darkness is opposed to wisdom. So, whoever has not received Christ the fullness of wisdom, even though, he walks according to the wisdom of this world, lives in darkness.
In the Gospel reading of today Jesus is presented as being angry. He is angry at those who disrespect the temple by doing immoral businesses in the temple area. The temple or the church is a place of worship. It is where we can meet God. God makes His presence felt in those places. Irreverence has no place in it. While we believe God is everywhere, there sacred places set aside to worship God. In the gospel narrative, money changers are seen taking advantage of foreigners who came to the area to worship. Even those selling doves for offering were selling overpriced fowls. Jesus could not withstand what they were doing in a place where God is supposed to be encountered. He showed His humanity and His concern by making a whip and using it in driving out everyone who was guilty.
The cleansing of the temple can also be seen as the cleansing of ourselves of our sins. The body of Christ is the true temple where this sanitation must be done. It is in St Paul that we understand effectively that we are the very Temple of God. In 1 Cor 6:19, we are told clearly that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In Gen 2:7, God breathed His Spirit into man and he became a living being. Without the Spirit of God, the house makes no more sense. The human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our human body must be treated with respect and should maintain holiness. Scripture admonishes us that if we destroy the temple of God, God will destroy us. Caution must be observed and our bodies must not be given to immorality or any such action that undermines the dignity and sanctity of the sacred temple of God. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and we must recognize that presence and do all within our power to ensure that sin does not linger or taint it thereby making us unholy.
Take care you do not turn, by yourself, the temple of God into a robber’s den. Our yardstick for finding out these is given in the 1st reading from the book of Exodus – the Ten Commandments. What is going on exactly in the temple of the Holy Spirit which is your body? Jesus is here. He has His whip in His hands. He is carrying out a fierce operation. Don’t wait for Him to get to you. Sweep clean, REPENT and escape God’s wrath.
Jesus’ earthly ministry took much interest in casting out every illegal occupant of the temple of the Holy Spirit – the human body. He cast out demons inhabiting this temple. He cast out diseases that tormented the human person – Acts 10:38. Effectively, the God who never changes still goes about cleansing the temple and undoing what the devil has done – 1 Jn 3:8. In this Divine operation, Jesus would cast out everything that is turning this temple into what it is not meant for. Every satanic transaction that the evil ones are making in the lives of God’s people, the body of Christ, is to be frustrated. The devil’s table is to be turned upside down. Yes there are many evil tables in this temple. Tables of sickness, grief, confusion, wasted efforts. Believe God the owner of this temple, your body, and these tables must come down. There must be a serious uproar in the kingdom of darkness. The source of their livelihood must be taken away from them because they are feeding on your life’s progress and on your happiness. The owner of the temple has come.
We need to also avoid a calculating mentality in divine worship: Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, one of mutual love, respect and a desire for the family’s good, with no thought of personal loss or gain. Hence, fulfilling our Sunday obligation only out of fear of mortal sin and consequent eternal punishment (hence, a loss), is a non-Christian approach. We also cannot afford to avoid sin and do charity simply because we are expecting some reward from God. Our worship of God must be sincere and honest. We need to learn to worship God in spirit and in truth.
We are also enjoined to inveigh against every form of desecration of the temple of God both the physical building, the church and the spiritual, which is our body. We cannot afford to be indifferent and act like those who were selling and making illicit profits from the sacred place of God. Like Jesus, we should strive to correct ill and wrongdoing when we see them, wherever they exist, especially in ourselves. There are times when it is right to get angry. Jesus was angry when he drove the money-changers out of the Temple. Christ's example tells me there are times when a Christian ought to get angry.
Prayer - The Lord Jesus wants to renew our minds and to purify our hearts so that we may offer God fitting worship and enjoy his presence both now and forever. May the prayers and offerings we make in this sacred place be acceptable in the sight of God through Christ our Lord. Amen!!!