Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cleansing the Temple = Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles: The Universal Mission to Worship the One God

            Benedict XVI – Jesus of Nazareth II: “After the cleansing of the Temple, so Mark tells us, ‘[Jesus] taught.’” The essential content of this ‘teaching’ is succinctly expressed in these words of Jesus: ‘Is it not written: ‘May house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers’ (Mk. 11, 17). In this synthesis of Jesus’ ‘teaching’ on the Temple… two prophecies are combined.

            “The first is the universalist vision of the Prophet Isaiah (56, 7) of a future in which all peoples come together in the house of God to worship the Lord as the one God. In the layout of the Temple, the vast Court of the Gentiles in which this whole episode takes place is the open space to which the whole world is invited, in order to pray there to the one God. Jesus’ action underlines this profound openness of expectation which animated Israel’s faith. Even if Jesus consciously limits his own ministry to Israel, he still embodies the universalist tendency to open Israel in such a way that all can recognize in its God the one God common to the whole world. In answer to the question of what Jesus actually brought to mankind, we argued in Part One of this book that he brought God to the nations (p. 44).

“What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?
            “The answer is very simple: Go. He has brought God. HE has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually, first to Abraham, then to Moses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature – the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the true God, whom he has brought to the nations of the earth.
            “He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart what we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God’s power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God’s cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves.  The earthly kingdoms that Satan was able to pout before the Lord at that time have all passed away. Their glory, their doxa, has proven to be a mere semblance. But the glory of Christ, the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love, has not passed away, nor will it ever do so.”[1]

            According to his own testimony, this fundamental purpose is what lies behind the cleansing of the Temple: to remove whatever obstacles there may be to the common recognition and worship of God  - and thereby to open up a space for common worship.

   Fr. Sean Manson wrote for today (3d Sunday of Lent): "Let us not be shocked if Jesus enters our temple today and upsets a few tables. If, and only if this happens, will the company we keep; the time we spend; the opinions we form; the thoughts we entertain, be not based on self-interest, but on a true desire for the good of others. Not matter what the cost to us."

[1] Benedict XVI “Jesus of Nazareth I” Doubleday (2007) 44.

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