Being Religious, without Forgetting To Have Faith!

Weekly Missionary Reflection
3rd Week of Lent, 7 March 2021

Exod. 20:1-17 (or shorter reading: Exod. 20:1-3,7-9,12-17); Ps. 19:8,9,10,11; 1Cor. 1:22-25; John 2:13-25

In John’s gospel there are 7 “signs” that Jesus performs to introduce Himself. The first sign happens at the wedding in Cana. It is an atmosphere of party and joy. The setting is profane, with exclusive members: relatives and friends, in a small village. The second sign in today’s Gospel has different atmosphere: conflict and anger. The setting is sacred at the Temple, in the capital, among the pilgrims. Political tone is so obvious. Approaching the Passover, Jerusalem is full of pilgrims. There is a mass gathering from where the national fighters can take advantage. The Roman will definitely increase their security troops.

This is the context that Jesus is “furious” at. How come? The Temple is the center of Judaism. The place where the LORD is present among His people. The place where they receive blessing and forgiveness, through various sacrificial rituals. On the other side, the Temple is also the center of power. In Jesus’ time, Roman rulers control the Temple. They appoint the obedient High Priests who defend their interest. They also take profit from the selling of animal offerings in the Temple area. At this point Jesus’ anger is a threatening. It disturbs the interests of the authorities. Dismissing the trading business in the Temple means reducing or even eliminating the profit of the Priests and Roman rulers. It makes sense, that in the Synoptic version, this scene has become the the reason for Jesus’s death sentence.

The Gospel of John emphasizes another aspect. Dismissing the trade in the Temple practically eliminates Jewish worship. It is difficult to imagine Jewish worship without the ritual of offering. How can people receive blessing and forgiveness? Jesus’ answer is clear: no more necessary to present offerings in the Temple. Now, God’s presence can be felt in Himself. It is Jesus who presents God to human, He is the new Temple of God. He is the only one who brings us God’s blessing and forgiveness. Unlike the Temple building which is once destroyed and will never be built up again, this new ‘Temple’, despite of having been killed by religious and political rulers, after 3 days will be raised and live for ever.

Apart from introducing the identity of Jesus, this story also sends message on true worship/religion. It’s too often that we are busy at being religious but we forget to have faith, we are careful for liturgy but poor in human relationship. We forget that the essence of this all is the saving encounter with the living Jesus. And even worse, religion and worship are often utilized for commercial practice or to serve the interests of certain parties.

Jesus also challenges our attitude, as His Church, when facing with any issues of religion and state relation. How far has our faith been questioning, criticizing, changing and shining our way of life in the society and politic? The right attitude is of course originated from true faith, not a massive faith, such as the faith of people who seek Jesus only for the sake of miracle. The attitude of His disciples in this story may be a good model: they always remember what the Scriptures say and the words of Jesus Himself (vv. 17 and 22). That is the faith guideline for living in a country as a religious people.

(Hortensio Mandaru – Indonesia Bible Society, Jakarta)

DAILY DEDICATED PRAYER

Lord, our Father, I present my today prayer, thought, word, work, joy and sorrow in the unity with Your Son, Jesus Christ, who always presents Himself in the Eucharist for the world salvation. May the Holy Spirit, as the soul of Jesus, also lead and give me the strength today so that I am ready to be the witness of Your love.

Together with St. Mary, Mother of Jesus and the Church, I specially present my prayer to our Pope and Indonesian Church prayer apostles of this month:

For Evangelization intention:
Sacrament of reconciliation: May through the Sacrament of reconciliation, we are enabled to renew ourselves deeper so we can feel God’s unconditional love. We pray…

For Indonesian Churches intention:
Focusing on the essentials: May the Catholics always learn to focus more on the essentials, both in body and soul. We pray…

Special Intention for the year of St. Joseph:
During the months dedicated to St. Joseph, let us get the spirit that is opened to listen to Your will, in order for us to serve the Holy Family. We pray…

Amen

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