Gospel Reflections

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

John 2:13-25

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Amarachi Ezeonu

Published: November 09, 2014

Read John 2:13-25

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the... Read More…


The image of an emotionally-charged Jesus overturning tables of money changers and driving out buyers and sellers of animals from the temple with a whip would be an exceptionally uncomfortable one for many Christians. His disciples must have also been shocked at this outright display of strong emotion by Jesus; so much so that they quickly recalled the passage from the Scripture perfectly describing and putting such behavior into perspective: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Who in Israel would have had the audacity to dare challenge the authority of the Jewish elders so publicly and outrageously in such a manner as Jesus? It was only the One who was sure of the source of his own authority as the Son of God? Jews travelled from different parts of the world to Jerusalem in order to worship and offer sacrifices in the temple. Larger animals were usually offered by those who were well-off, while the poor, unable to afford animals, offer doves. Every male Jew from nineteen years of age was also required by law to pay the temple tax. And since this could only be paid in a particular currency, those without the approved currency converted their money with the money-changers at the temple. Hence, these business people must have had the approval of the priests to transact their business in the temple. (This may have given room for the exploitation of worshippers by the business people, with the implicit knowledge of the priests who themselves must have also benefitted from the deal.) Therefore, when Jesus drove away the business people out of the temple, he was in many ways challenging the authority of the priests and Jewish elders, obviously infuriating them.

Jesus must have been very aware of the inherent danger in challenging the authority of the powerful Jewish elders. After all, he was in Jerusalem where he predicted beforehand the trouble and persecution awaiting him. But he will neither be cowered by fear nor held hostage by protocols when the dignity and the integrity of the human person were at stake. When a situation called for him to act or speak for those who were vulnerable, oppressed, excluded or marginalized in any form because of their race, sex, age, economic status, etc, Jesus never subscribed to political correctness. For him, the love of God and the primacy of the human person came before any human law or convention. When the Jews questioned Jesus’ authority, he quickly challenged them: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The temple worship must have been very important to Jesus, as a Jew, but he knew that; “the hour has come when true worshippers will worship God in Spirit and truth …” (Jn.4:23). It is indeed the kind of worship desired by God from members of the new community which will emerge as the result of the Easter Experience.

As the Church celebrates the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome (which is considered the mother church and the symbol of the unity of members of the Church), she invites us to recall and celebrate our common humanity as members of the Body of Christ. Because we belong to this single body, what affects one part ultimately affects the other parts (1 Cor. 12:14-26). This is the crux of the Feast of the Dedication of Lateran Basilica.

Therefore, as Christ is consumed by zeal for his Father’s house, we too, the people of God, are invited to be consumed by same zeal for the common good of all God’s creatures. Being consumed by something can sometimes be dangerous, (as being consumed by fire). It certainly was dangerous for Jesus, because it led to his execution. It has also been dangerous for many in our time, such as Sister Dorothy Stang, Martin Lurther King, Ghandi, and so many wonderful women and men across the world. But just as God vindicated God’s Son, Jesus Christ, by raising him from the dead, God will in turn vindicate all those who like Jesus stand on the side of truth and justice, with those living in poverty in our world.

Reflection

 “Whenever a person is in a situation of vulnerability, of oppression or exclusion because he or she is part of a racial or ethnic group, a certain age or economic situation, etc, we need to ask ourselves, ‘What road do I need to walk in order to establish communion?”
 How inclusive am I in my care for humanity? Does my care extend beyond my own immediate circle?

 

 

 

 

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