Sunday, March 4, 2018

Angelus about cleansing the temple

At noon today (6:00am EST), the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's gospel presents, in John's version, the episode in which Jesus chases the sellers out of the temple in Jerusalem (cf Jn 2:13-25).  He did this by creating a whip out of cords, overturning their tables and saying: Stop making my Father's house into a marketplace! (Jn 2:16).  This decisive action, carried out not long before Easter, made a great impression on the crowd and aroused the hostility of the religious authorities and those who felt their economic interests were being threatened.  But how should we interpret this action?  Certainly, it was not a violent action, otherwise it would have provoked the intervention of the public order guards.  No!  But it was seen as an action typical of the prophets who often denounced abuses and excesses in the name of God.  The question that this action posed was one of authority.  In fact, the Jews asked Jesus: What sign will you give us to rationalize these things (Jn 2:18), as if to say, what authority do you have to say these things?  As if to request a demonstration that He was truly acting in the name of God.

In order to interpret Jesus' act of purifying the house of God, his disciples looked to the biblical text written in Psalm 69: Zeal for your house will devour me (Ps 69:17); this is what the psalm says: Zeal for your house will devour me.  This psalm is a call for help in a situation of extreme danger due to hatred for their enemies: the situation that Jesus was experiencing in his passion.  Zeal for the Father and for his house drove him to the cross: his was a zeal of love that lead him to sacrifice himself, not a false zeal that presumes to serve God through violence.  In fact, the sign that Jesus would give as proof of his authority was his own death and resurrection: Destroy this temple - he said - and in three days, I will rebuild it (Jn 2:19).  The evangelist notes: He was speaking about the temple of his body (Jn 2:21).  With Jesus' resurrection, a new worship would begin, a new temple, the worship of love, and the new temple is Jesus himself.

The attitude of Jesus recounted in today's gospel challenges us to live our lives not in search of our own advantages and interests, but for the glory of God that is love itself.  We are called to always make present the powerful words of Jesus: Don't make the Father's house a marketplace! (Jn 2:16).  It is terrible when the Church slips in its attitude and makes the house of God a marketplace.  These words help us to reject the danger of doing this also with our souls - the place where God dwells - by living in continuous search for our own self-interests rather than seeking to live in generous and supportive love.  This teaching of Jesus can still be applied today, not only for the ecclesial community, but also for each one of us, for civil communities and for all of society.  In fact, it is common to tempt people to take advantage of goodness, sometimes it can even be necessary that we cultivate private interests, sometimes even illicit activities.  This is a serious danger, especially it exploits God himself and the worship that is due to him, or the service of mankind, building up his image.  This is the reason why Jesus used strong words to shake us up and to wake up out of this mortal danger.

May the Virgin Mary support us in our commitment to live this Lenten period as a good occasion to recognize God as the only Lord of our lives, and ridding our hearts and our actions of every form of idolatry.

Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I greet all of you, from Rome and from other parts of Italy as well as from other countries, especially the pilgrims from the Dioceses of Granada, Málaga and Córdoba in Spain.

I greet the many parish groups, including the faithful from Spinaceto, Milan and Naples, as well as the young people from Azzano Mella and those who have recently been Confirmed from the Diocese of Vicenza.  I encourage you - take courage! - to bear witness to the joy of the gospel, especially among your peers.

I wish you all a good Sunday!  Please, don't forget to pray for me.

Enjoy your lunch and good bye!

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