The Gospel according to Luke (Luke 9:45-48)
Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus pleased you by safeguarding the sacred place of the temple. I also am a living temple of the Holy Spirit. I believe that by the grace of your Baptism you dwell within me. Help me to enter into this moment of prayer and speak with you who live within me, heart to heart.
Encountering Christ: Jesus had just entered Jerusalem for the upcoming Feast of Passover. He arrived in that holy city and then returned again the next day and entered the Temple area. As He witnessed the corruption of those selling animals for the Temple sacrifices, Jesus responded with fervent preaching in an attempt to cleanse the Temple from this corruption. He quoted the Prophet Isaiah and cried out, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” Luke’s Gospel points out the reaction of the chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people. They were “seeking to put him to death.” However, as the Gospel further relates, “they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.”
It’s important to consider this passage within its context. The words that Jesus spoke were words that sought to cleanse the Temple of corruption. With the approval of the temple priests, who benefitted from the temple tax, there were many people who were using the practice of divine worship to make a profit for selfish gain, turning the Temple into a marketplace. Jesus could see this clearly, and many of the people would have also sensed the corruption of these practices. Though they needed to purchase animals for the ritual sacrifices and Passover meal, many of them were most likely disturbed by this abuse. Therefore, as Jesus spoke with fervor and condemnation, it angered those who were responsible for the corruption but left the people with consolation. Hence, they were “hanging on his words.”
The Gospel is always consoling, and, for those who are open, it leads them to hang on every word that is spoken. It refreshes and invigorates, clarifies and motivates. Usually when we think of the Gospel, we think of words that are gentle and inviting—words of mercy to the sinner and compassion for those who are struggling. But sometimes the pure Gospel message from our Lord fiercely attacks sin and evil. And though this may be shocking to the evildoers, to those with pure faith, these words also refresh and strengthen.
Today, we need the full Gospel message. Many need to hear Jesus’ gentle invitation to conversion by which their heavy burdens are lifted. But many others need to hear His firm words of condemnation. And the Church as a whole needs both of these messages to be proclaimed if we are to fully participate in the apostolic ministry of our Lord. Only our Lord has the right to condemn, chastise, and call others to repentance. But we are all called to share in this mission of our Lord. And though we do not have the right to judge the hearts of others, when we see objective evil and disorder within our world and even within our Church, we must cry out with our Lord, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And when we do hear the holy and inspired words of God’s messengers who boldly and courageously proclaim the truth and call others to repentance, it should inspire, invigorate and console us as we find ourselves hanging on their every word.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, just as you came into the temple with passion and enthusiasm to defend and claim what was your Father’s, remember also that I am yours and come to my defense before the lies and doubts which can sometimes plague me and those I love. You reveal that the name of God is mercy, that his face is love and forgiveness and life. I wish to welcome this grace into my life. Come, Holy Spirit, and speak your truth in these places where I need it most.
Action: Lord, today by your grace I will put my headphones aside and renew some of my interior headspace for God.