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Friday – Thirty-third week – OT1
Readings: I Mac 4:36-37, 52-59; Lk 19:45-48.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 Maccabees 4:36 Then said Judas and his brothers, “Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.” 37 So all the army assembled and they went up to Mount Zion.. 52 Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year, 53 they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built. 54 At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. 55 All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. 56 So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise. 57 They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and furnished them with doors. 58 There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was removed. 59 Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 19:45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, `My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” 47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him; 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words.
I. THEME: The purification of the temple
The temptations of the world and the business of life often lead us to the ignorance of truth and of the meaning of our life. The result is that instead we must actively control our life, we let others to control our life. For examples, we let business people to control our life when we buy too expensive house or sport car, have dinners at five-stars restaurants, drink expensive X-O bottle of cognac which is worth of our weekly wage.
When one is used to these things, he must find a way to earn more money without concerning the way is proper or not. A doctor spends about 15 to 20 minutes with a poor patient and charges them the amount which is equivalent with his weekly salary. Sunday is the day to worship God and to rest, many also used this day to earn more money without concerning damages for their spiritual life and health.
Today readings invite us to look deeply into the temple of our soul in order to recognize idols needed to sweep away and to make our soul holy for God’s dwelling. In the first reading, Judah and Mattathias’ sons called people to go up and to purify the Temple from all Gentiles’ impurities, so that it will be a deserved place for God’s dwelling. In the Gospel, Jesus entered into the Temple to chase out those who made his Father’s house into a den of robbers.
1/ Reading I: “Let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.”
1.1/ People need to recognize impurities and its results: In yesterday first reading, Judah’s father and his brothers were angry because the king’s officer had offered pork offerings to idols on the table which is used to offer to God. Their father, Mattathias, out of his eager to protect God’s law, killed a Jew who went up to offer offering to idols and the king’s officer who commanded it. After that, he led his sons and those who were eager like him to enter a desert to prepare for a revolution.
After a while, his military power was strong enough, and with God’s protection, he and his sons were victorious over Antiochus’ army. He passed away and handed the military force to Judah and his brothers. When they liberated Jerusalem, the first thing they wanted to do is to purify the Temple because the Gentiles made it unclean. Judah said to his people: “”Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.” So all the army assembled and they went up to Mount Zion. Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals.”
1.2/ People must frequently cleanse and sanctify the temples: People were so happy and forgot about disgraces caused by the Gentiles. Judah, his brothers, and the Israel congregation decided that every year, in eight days from the 25th of Chislew, they will celebrate the dedication of the Temple solemnly and joyfully. This is the origin of Hannukah which the Jews celebrate on December 12 every year.
This must be done to all temples and churches in the world, and also to the purification of each individual temple. God is the most holy; wherever He presents, there is no devil and his damages. In opposition, wherever God is not present, devils will exercise their power and human must endure their damages.
2/ Gospel: The cleansing of the Temple
2.1/ Don’t converse the Temple into a den of robbers: The Temple is the house of prayer. The high priests and the priests have a duty to maintain the holiness of the Temple; but they esteemed material gains over the worship. They used the Temple to make money and people’s faith to rob them. There are two ways they used to earn money.
(1) Exchanging of money: Jerusalem is the trading place of many nations: Israel, Greek, Rome, Syria, Egypt … They set their exchanging booths and get percent interest from the amount of exchanging money. Such exchanging booths are still existed in the present Jerusalem.
(2) Selling animals for offerings: All Jews who went up to the Temple must offer their sin offerings for their sins to be forgiven. They could bring their own cattle or buy them at local places with cheaper price; but these animals must be approved by the Temple’s priests. In order to meet the law’s requirements, many of them must buy animals from the priests or their relatives with a higher price. The main reason why Jesus was angry because they used religion to steal the poor’s money. He entered the Temple to chase them out, and said: “It is written, `My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
2.2/ The bitterness of God’s word: Jesus was very courageous to do this act because it hurt the leaders’ right. To protect their power, honor, and material gains, the leaders had turned back to the truth and looked for an opportunity to kill Jesus.
The temple needed to purify is not just the Jerusalem Temple, but is expanded to all temples of God in the world, to all temples of families and of individual, as St. Paul said, “your body is the Holy Spirit’s temple.”
To purify a temple means to return to God a highest place in it. The faithful can’t put anyone or anything above Him, because the first commandment teaches that. To purify a temple is also meant to treat others justly and with love. One can’t use any reason to become rich from people’s hardworking money.
The most effective way to purify a temple is to face God’s word. Even though it is bitter because the truth always hurt; but only the truth can set us free. As the conclusion of today passage said: “all the people hung upon his words.” Whoever refuses to face God’s word, or even worse as high priests and scribes tried to find a way to destroy God’s word, is to claim death for oneself. Such a temple, as Jesus declared, is no longer a place for God; but a den for robbers.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must frequently cleanse our temple to be a worthy place for God’s dwelling. We also need to purify our motives when we celebrate liturgy and sacraments: Is it because our reverence and love for God or because of our power, honor, and material gains?
– God’s word is the most suitable instrument for purification. Read and meditate God’s word day and night will help us to recognize idols and sins in us before we cleanse them out.
– We must accept the bitterness of God’s word in order to purify our soul. To turn our back to His Word or to find a way to suffocate it, is to make our temple a den of robbers.