And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple (John 2:15; Gospel).
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Gospel John 2:13-25 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)
Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In
the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the
money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them
all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of
the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold
the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a
house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal
for your house will consume me.”
the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus
answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise
it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this
temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking
about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the
dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they
believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Last week I focused on the life and death of Shahbaz Bhatti, assassinated in Pakistan on 2 March 2011. I want to do the same this week as I think that this man exemplifies what being a follower of Jesus is. Here are two quotations from him.
I have been asked to put an end to my battle, but I have always refused, even at the risk of my own life. My response has always been the same. I do not want popularity, I do not want positions of power. I only want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak of me and say that I am following Jesus Christ.
I, as a humble servant of Jesus Christ, will continue to serve the suffering, victimised and persecuted communities, and am ready to even sacrifice my life to defend the principles of religious freedom, human equality and the rights of minorities.
These quotations are from a politician who was a Catholic and the only Christian in the cabinet of the national government in Pakistan. Not long after he spoke those latter words he was assassinated on 2 March 2011. His name was Clement Shahbaz Bhatti. He was 42.
The first quotation is from a testament published a few days after his death in La Civiltà Cattolica, the weekly magazine published in the Vatican, and also here. The second is what he said to the media after being re-appointed to the cabinet as Minister for Minorities’ Affairs on 11 February 2011, less that two weeks before his death.
Today’s First Reading from the Book of Exodus is the proclamation of the Ten Commandments, beginning with I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
The first three commandments have to do with our relationship with God, the other seven with our relationships to one another. Shahbaz Bhatti’s vision embraced both kinds of relationships. In his testimony he wrote: My name is Shahbaz Bhatti. I was born into a Catholic family. My father, a retired teacher, and my mother, a housewife, raised me according to Christian values and the teachings of the Bible, which influenced my childhood. Since I was a child, I was accustomed to going to church and finding profound inspiration in the teachings, the sacrifice, and the crucifixion of Jesus. It was his love that led me to offer my service to the Church. The frightening conditions into which the Christians of Pakistan had fallen disturbed me. I remember one Good Friday when I was just thirteen years old: I heard a homily on the sacrifice of Jesus for our redemption and for the salvation of the world. And I thought of responding to his love by giving love to my brothers and sisters, placing myself at the service of Christians, especially of the poor, the needy, and the persecuted who live in this Islamic country.
Shahbaz Bhatti had a profound sense of vocation as a follower of Jesus Christ serving the poorest. Jesus was at the heart of his life. I only want a place at the feet of Jesus. He uses this image again in the last paragraph of his testimony: I believe that the needy, the poor, the orphans, whatever their religion, must be considered above all as human beings. I think that these persons are part of my body in Christ, that they are the persecuted and needy part of the body of Christ. If we bring this mission to its conclusion, then we will have won a place at the feet of Jesus, and I will be able to look at him without feeling shame.
That evokes the words of Jesus to St Martha after she asked him to rebuke her sister Mary: It is Mary who has chosen the good portion, which will not to be taken from her.
It also expresses a deep sense of the Mystical Body of Christ, as does the previous paragraph of his testimony: I say that, as long as I am alive, until the last breath, I will continue to serve Jesus and this poor, suffering humanity, the Christians, the needy, the poor. I believe that the Christians of the world who have reached out to the Muslims hit by the tragedy of the earthquake of 2005 have built bridges of solidarity, of love, of comprehension, and of tolerance between the two religions.
Shahbaz Bhatti lived out the Ten Commandments as a follower of Jesus in the mission our Saviour proclaimed at the beginning of his public life: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.
One of Shahbaz Bhatti’s closest friends, a Muslim and a member of the same political party, was assassinated on 4 January 2011, Governor Salman Taseer of Punjab, murdered by one of his own bodyguards. These two politicians and friends opposed the blasphemy laws and asked for the release of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman falsely accused of breaking the blasphemy laws and sentenced to death. Her long ordeal ended only in 2019 when she was allowed to go to Canada. The following year she moved to France.
The Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi opened the cause for the beatification of Shahbaz Bhatti on the fifth anniversary of his death.
St Paul tells us in the Second Reading: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. In a video interview with the BBC four months before his death, to be broadcast in the event of his death, Shahbaz Bhatti said: I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] Cross and I am following of the Cross and I am ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.
El Greco's painting above shows the Crucifixion rooted in Toledo, the Spanish city where he spent the second half of his life. Jesus became one of us: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) and died for us. Shahbaz Bhatti's words are a reflection of the truth that El Greco expresses in his painting: I’m living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.
The possibility of his being assassinated was something he spoke about a number of times. But he was ready to accept it because of his deep faith in Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us on the Cross.
In the Gospel today Jesus drives the people engaged in commerce out of the Temple telling them: Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade. The whole thrust of Shahbaz Bhatti’s life from his student days was to resist and oppose false values that held people in servitude in Pakistan. This was his ways of making a whip out of cords and driving them all out of the temple. He did this with a deep sense of vocation, awakened in him by his parents and especially by the Good Friday homily he heard when he was 13. The sacrifice of Jesus was perhaps the deepest formative influence in his life.
The Gospel today also speaks of the Resurrection: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up . . . and when therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. The response to today’s Psalm is You, Lord, have the message of eternal life. Shahbaz Bhatti lived out of his faith in the Resurrection: I only want a place at the feet of Jesus . . . If we bring this mission to its conclusion, then we will have won a place at the feet of Jesus, and I will be able to look at him without feeling shame.
Fr Raymond de Souza, a Canadian priest, said in a homily in Ottawa a few days after the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti: In the face of death the Christian proclaims the truth of the Risen Christ. The Risen Christ was not an abstraction, or mere theological doctrine, to Shahbaz Bhatti. He knew that the Lord Jesus was at work in his life. He had a personal relationship with Him. He believed that his life was proceeding under the Lord’s Providence. He knew that the Risen Christ is the Lord of History. He knew that the time of his departure was close at hand; he knew that he had fought the good fight; he knew that his race was almost finished.
This sense that our true home is in heaven, when we will have won a place at the feet of Jesus, has become obscured and forgotten to a large degree today. Shahbaz Bhatti was probably not familiar with the 8th Sermon of St Columban, the great Irish missionary saint (c.540 - 625), but understood what he said there: Since we are travellers and pilgrims in the world, let us ever ponder on the end of the road, that is of our life, for the end of our roadway is our home.
Traditional Latin Mass
Second Sunday in Lent
The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 03-03-2024 if necessary).