(Before reading Epistle): If the epistle sounds a just
little cryptic this morning, it should be enough to understand that Saint Paul
is recalling an event from the Old Testament, calling to mind how some of the
people being led through the desert. out of Egypt, were being unfaithful to God
even though He had been providing for all of their needs. The important theme
here is the importance of fidelity to the one true God; fidelity will be
rewarded, infidelity will be punished.
Roman Destruction of Jerusalem
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
“Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
To the religious Jew, Jerusalem enjoyed
a unique place of honor. In the Ark of the Covenant God had lead them out of
captivity in Egypt, appearing as a pillar of fire by night and cloud day.
During the high priesthood of Samuel the Ark resided in a temporary place at
There was no permanent home for the Ark until the building of the first temple
on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, under King Solomon.
The temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity and was expanded by King
The Temple consisted of a series of
courts that converged on the Holy of Holies, the dwelling of God Himself. Only
the priests could enter the court outside of the Holy of Holies, and only the
high priest was allowed beyond the veil to the Divine Presence, and that was but
once a year on the Day of Atonement. Jewish Men could enter a court outside
that of the priests, at the eastern end. The court of the Jewish women was
still further to the east and contained the Temple treasury, where people paid
their tithe and made voluntary donations. Another court surrounded the Temple
on three sides, and non-Jews were permitted in this court of the Gentiles. At
least three times a year (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles) the able bodied
men of Israel converged on Jerusalem and it's temple to offer sacrifice in the
holy Presence of God.
Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem because He
knew that the Jews’ would reject Him, and crucify Him. That veil which
curtained off the Holy of Holies would be ripped from the top down.
The Sacred Presence would dwell there no more. He further knew that the Temple
itself would be utterly destroyed by the Romans less than forty years later.
But, at the moment recounted in today’s
Gospel our Lord was concerned with a different sort of desecration of the
Temple: “My house is the house of, prayer, but you have made it a den of
thieves.” There were two types of business going on—money changing and the sale
of sacrificial animals. People coming from afar needed to change their money
into the currency of the Temple in order to make their tithes and donations—no
coin bearing the likeness of an animal or human being was acceptable. They also
needed to purchase the animals which the Mosaic Law prescribed for the Temple
sacrifices, oxen, sheep and doves). These are innocent enough activities, but
greed seems to have entered into the process. The priests allowed these
activities in the court of the Gentiles, and took a percentage of the profits.
Money seems to have been loaned at interest—a violation of the Mosaic Law’s
prohibition of usury. Quite possibly the prices charged were unjustly high.
And, perhaps, the commerce had trickled into the court of the Women.
Our Lord recognized this as a rejection
of the Temple’s purpose—it was supposed to be the house of God, and thus a house
of prayer—but it had become a place of business, and dishonest business at
that. He referred to them as “thieves.” The synoptic Gospels relate the
destruction of Jerusalem in proximity to the cleansing of the Temple—no doubt
our Lord understood the commerce in the Temple as an early rejection of
Himself. His priests should have been more concerned about the worship of Him
and His Father. Saint Mark relates that afterwards “the chief priests and the
scribes … sought how they might destroy Him. For they feared him, because the
whole multitude was in admiration at his doctrine.”
He was a threat to their authority as well as to their profits. The punishment
for rejecting the Son of God would be the destruction of their city and their
society. They did not recognize the “time of their visitation” by God Himself.
We might learn from their error. The
buying and selling could have been perfectly innocent, but they detracted from
the true purpose of the Temple. We should want not to detract from the True
Presence of God in our church. The purpose of the church is prayer. We must
not distract one another by our appearance—our dress should be neither too
casual nor flamboyant—it must always be modest! Our conversations should be
limited to what is truly necessary—otherwise they should be brought outside of
the church—and even then they must not disturb those who remain to pray before
or after Mass. Have respect for the church's property and furnishings. Raise
and lower the kneelers carefully. Don't fold the sheet music; don't fold the
Mass booklets inside out.
Do everything that you do with true
reverence for God’s almighty Presence. Let us not be like those who “do not
recognize the time of their visitation.”