04 March 2015

'Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003) directed by Philip Saville

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel John 2:13-25 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After 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.
When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people  and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Rembrandt, c.1626. Pushkin Museum, Moscow [Web Gallery of Art]

In 1990 I went to renew my driving licence in Dublin. It took about twenty minutes, as I had to go to three or four different persons. But everything was orderly. Now you only have to go to one and the procedure, apart from filling up the form, takes less than a minute.

When I reached the last official he told me that I'd get my licence in the post (mail) in a day or two. I told him that I was leaving for Iceland the following day. (I was going on a pastoral visit to the Filipinos living there and was to drive around the whole country).

The clerk looked at me. And while he didn't swear at me, he said something to the effect, 'You stupid idiot. Why didn't you say so before?' I had no reason to do that since on previous occasions I had received my licence then and there. Now there was a new system. 

On the face of it, the clerk was insulting me. But in a very 'Dublin way' he was being most helpful. He got up from his desk and came back a minute or two later with my new licence.

I had met an official with common sense, a person with a sense of public service.

Over the years here in the Philippines I have heard far too many stories of officials in situations like that who make it extremely difficult for members of the public, especially poorer ones, and who use delaying tactics unless something is passed across the counter.

In today's Gospel Jesus uses physical force to show his utter disgust at the Temple being used as a market. He knew that some of these people took advantage of those who were poor. There are such persons in every community.

Jesus was emphasising the sacredness of the Temple, the only place where Jews offered sacrifices to God.

But the First Reading links worship with daily life. It gives us the Ten Commandments, which spell out how our relationship with God and our relationship with those around us are intertwined. When the connection is not made evil follows, as the death of Floribert Bwana Chui in the video above shows.

I knew of a provincial engineer here in the Philippines who was never promoted. The reason? He used all the money allotted to build an excellent road nearly 50 years ago between two towns, by far the best in his own and in the neighbouring provinces. No 'brown envelopes'. No kickbacks. Every centavo allotted went into the road. Many Columbans knew this man and told me of his deep faith and integrity.

When we truly worship God at Mass and on other occasions in the church or other designated sacred places, we come to see that every place, every situation, is meant to be sacred also. My mother more than once in scolding me said, House devil, street angel! In effect she was calling me to integrity, the kind of integrity I saw, for example, in my father's life.

St Paul, so to speak, nails the life of the follower of Jesus to the Cross in today's Second Reading: We proclaim Christ crucified. The sacrifices offered in the Temple foreshadowed the Sacrifice of Jesus in which all of us share each time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Some God calls, after strengthening their faith especially through the Eucharist and his Word, to share literally in the Sacrifice of Jesus. Floribert Bwana Chui was one of those. 

Pope Francis has spoken frequently about the martyrs of our time. On 6 February, the feast day of the Martyrs of Japan, he saidI think of our martyrs, the martyrs of our times, men, women, children who are being persecuted, hated, driven out of their homes, tortured, massacred.  And this is not a thing of the past: this is happening right now. It would do us good to think of our martyrs. Today, we remember Paolo Miki, but that happened in 1600. Think of our present-day ones! Of 2015.

We can see clearly the martyrdom of someone killed simply for being a Christian. There have been many such martyrs in recent years in the Middle East and in parts of Africa. What we don't see so clearly, perhaps, is that a person who is killed for refusing to give a bribe, for refusing to tell a lie, for refusing to cooperate in crime, for demanding and working for justice, is also a martyr. There are many such persons such as Floribert Bwana Chui. 

Another such is Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani politician assassinated on 2 March 2011 because he saw his life as a politician as his vocation in following Christ:

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.
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.

Floribert Bwan Chui, whom I learned about only a few days ago, and Shahbaz Bhatti, whom I have written about many times, understood how the Temple and the 'Marketplace' - the latter in its proper 'location' - are related in terms of following Jesus. And they both embodied fully the vision of Vatican II for the lay person:

For man, created to God's image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness; a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to Him Who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. Thus, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth.

This mandate concerns the whole of everyday activity as well. For while providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which appropriately benefits society. They can justly consider that by their labor they are unfolding the Creator's work, consulting the advantages of their brother men, and are contributing by their personal industry to the realization in history of the divine plan (Gaudium et Spes, 34).

Clement Shahbaz Bhatti
9 September 1968 - 2 March 2011 [Wikipedia]

Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon Cf Ps 24 [25]:15-16
[The shorter version is used in the 'New Mass', the longer in the 'Old Mass']
Oculi mei semper ad Dominum,
My eyes are always on the Lord,
quia ipse evellet de laqueo pedes meos.
for he rescues my feet from the snare.
Respice in me et miserere mei, 
Turn to me and have mercy on me, 
quoniam unicus et pauper sum ego.
for I am alone and poor.

Ad te Domine levavi animam meam:
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
Deus meus, in te confido, non erubescam.
O my God, in you I trust;do not let me be put to shame.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, 
As it was in the beginning, is now, 
et in saecula saecolum. Amen.
and will be for ever. Amen.

Oculi mei semper ad Dominum,
My eyes are always on the Lord,
quia ipse evellet de laqueo pedes meos.
for he rescues my feet from the snare.
Respice in me et miserere mei, 
Turn to me and have mercy on me, 
quoniam unicus et pauper sum ego.
for I am alone and poor.

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