Today’s Gospel challenges us to consider how we view–and use–our blessings:
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.
The question arises: are we treating God’s house as a house of prayer, or are we acting as a den of thieves?
Lately I’ve been confused by what I’ve read on Facebook. A lot of my fellow Christians have posted fearful messages about closing our borders, rejecting refugees, and denying entry to people from abroad. Many fear terrorists finding their way into our country. And many of these same people fear that we, as a nation, are losing our Christian identity.
We are blessed as a nation. Our natural resources, cultures and subcultures, blending of human diversity, all make us who we are. And to the extent we are a Christian Nation, our land has been given to us so that we may give it back to God in worship; our land is a temple, a place of worship.
Have we, then, turned our land into a den of thieves?
As I dig deeper into the Gospel, I find even more evidence of its contemporary relevance. When Christ entered the Temple and encountered the merchants, He was in an area specifically set aside for Gentiles.
In the court of the Gentiles there would be those who sold animals for sacrifice, and those who changed Greek or Roman money to Jewish money, for that was needed in order to offer it. Yet Jesus drove them out, citing the prophet Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 That court was the farthest out from the sanctuary, yet all the noise and traffic there was unsuitable. Aquinas Study Bible.
This court then was Solomon’s porch—probably the eastern part of Solomon’s porch, in the court of the Gentiles—in which were sold doves, sheep, and lambs for sacrificing in the Temple, whom Christ drove out of it. For the court of the Gentiles was, as it were, the temple of the Gentiles, in which, therefore, it was not seemly to buy and sell. Aquinas Study Bible.
According to one source, “the Court of the Gentiles was the vast open space on the Temple mount in Jerusalem where all those who did not share Israel’s faith could discuss religious matters.” It was a place for non-Jews to understand the faith of Abraham and be introduced to the Covenant. The Gentiles were the outsiders of the Jewish people, but there was a place in the Jewish Temple set aside for their inquiry.
Shouldn’t we offer the same sort of welcome to those suffering persecution abroad?
Two questions are relevant:
- Are we really a Christian Nation?
- Are we really the Home of the Brave?
If we really are a Christian Nation, shouldn’t we show Christian mercy to those who suffer? If we really are the Home of the Brave, shouldn’t we demonstrate the courage of compassion for those who don’t have our blessings?