On the third Sunday of Lent, for the liturgical reading we have the gospel in which we read about Jesus’s action of cleansing the temple of Jerusalem by driving out those who were selling things in the temple by saying, My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
We read the account of cleansing the temple in all the four gospels. Pope Benedict XVI in his interpretation of this passage, in the famous book Jesus of Nazareth, sees deeper theological meaning in the account of St. John. Comparing to synoptic gospels, the major difference we see in the account of St. John is that he adds a verse, which tells us that disciple when they saw the action of Jesus remembered that it was written, “zeal for your house will consume me” (Jn2:17).
We see in the gospels, immediately after this action Jesus, When the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him (Mk11:18). We also read, during the trial of Jesus, one of the false testimony against Jesus was the saying of Jesus in connection to the cleansing of the temple: I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands (Mk14:58). So Jesus’s zeal for God’s house lead him not only the action of cleansing the temple but to his suffering, death and resurrection.
This can be understood very well, when we know that the verse, “zeal for your house will consume me” is quoted from Psalm 69, which is called as “Passion Psalm.” Here the psalmist in his agony and sorrow was praying for deliverance. He sees his enemies and their work of evil. He feels like he is sinking in a deep water. He feels lonely and rejected even by his friends and family. The reason for his pain and rejection is because he chose to live according to God’s words. And so he tells to God, “It is zeal for your house that has consumed me” (Psalm 69:9).
The disciples when they saw the suffering and death of Jesus they identified him with the suffering servant of this Psalm. In Jesus’s passion and death, they also understood the real meaning of “zeal” of Jesus, which is same as his “love” for us. They also understood “the God’s house” for which he was consumed with the zeal is each one of us. This realization made them also, to burn with the same zeal for “God’s house.”
About the Author:
Fr. Binoy Puthusery, C.M. is a Vincentian priest belonging to the Southern Indian Province. He was ordained as priest on December 27, 2008 and soon after served as an assistant parish priest in Tanzania. In 2011, after two years of ministry, he was appointed as Spiritual Director to the Vincentian Sisters of Mercy, Mbinga Tanzania, where he still is today.
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