Today's Gospel takes us in and out of Jerusalem (and the Temple) more than once, with the scene of Jesus "cleansing the Temple" in the middle of the narrative. Thanks to having access to (cue the happy dance) the embargoed full text of the Pope's upcoming book on Holy Week, I found that what he wrote about the Temple incident really made a difference in how I read today's Gospel. Not that you'll get any spoilers from me. (I wouldn't want to put at risk my chances for getting future advance copies of papal and other books.)
At any rate, what I noticed for the first time is how Jesus is acting here in defense of the Gentiles. The moneychangers and the sellers of doves (and other animals, according to the other evangelists) had set up shop in the only place in the Temple non-Jews had any access to. (Archaeologists have found the stone markers with their warning that Gentiles who went beyond that point did so at the risk of their lives.) When Jesus went up to the Temple that first night and "looked around," what he saw was that the Court of the Gentiles was filled with activity ordered to the needs of Jewish worshipers for sacrifices the Gentiles could not offer. The next morning, when Jesus "cleansed" the Temple, he was restoring the Court of the Gentiles to the Gentiles.
"My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples," Isaiah had written. And Jesus, the Word, repeated that message with even more meaning. Even when that Temple of stone would be destroyed, there would be a new Temple of living stones, where everyone would have access in one Spirit to the Father.
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