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Sunday Homily, 3 March 2024 - Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Nowhere in the Ten Commandments is there mention of animal sacrifice.  Perhaps that’s because the Hebrews are already making those offerings; the commandments are laid on top of that foundation.  But certainly for us in the new covenant, which is formed by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the Ten Commandments rightly seem to be quite separate from animal sacrifice.

At the most fundamental level, what is to be offered to God is faithfulness to his will, to his commandments.  Only when we have been unfaithful, that is, when we have broken a commandment and therefore sinned, is there need of sacrifice to repair the relationship with God.  So, we affirm that sin and sacrifice go together, just as faithfulness and fulness of life do.

The Lord’s cleansing the Temple is his witness against the sinfulness which has become part of that institution.  It does not purify sins but rather multiplies them.  So, the Lord is pointing to a time, a situation, in which there will be no more sin.  That time is Good Friday, when his sacrifice is made to the Father, and which is made ours through baptism.  And on the Cross, we find a sacrifice which we cannot pollute because the Son of God is without sin.

In this episode, the Lord calls the Temple, “my Father’s house.”  Noone but Christ can claim to be acting for the Father.  Divine sonship means that Jesus is free to do with the Temple as he pleases.  We know, even down to our own day, that the Temple was both deprived of the divine presence and surpassed by the paschal sacrifice.  The place of forgiveness, therefore, is not the Temple but the Cross.

Christ’s claim to being the Son of God was disputed.  This scene of the cleansing of the Temple will be brought up in Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council.  On Holy Thursday, the Lord was taken from Garden to Palace.  There, before the High Priest and his family, all the buzz words we heard were given in evidence against Jesus: temple, man-made, destroy, raise.  The testimony is confused and the charge unfounded.  But they will charge the Lord with a crime far worse than rebellion: they will charge him with blasphemy, for claiming to be God’s Son.  This is why Pontius Pilate washes his hands: he refuses but still cannot evade incurring the legal guilt for Christ’s death for the crime of blasphemy.

The Son of God has made us into his temples.  We are not man-made; we are created by God.  Each of us has been willed into existence by God through our parents, and reborn in baptism.  We are beautiful and more beautiful than the Temple because we are graced, so long as we remain free from sin.

And because we are God’s temples, offerings must be made to him in us.  That offering is not blood but life.  God is not worshipped by immolation but by faithfulness.  We shall compare our past lives against the Ten Commandments by the light of the Holy Spirit, and see how we have need of mercy to become faithful again.

Whatever shows up when we compare our lives with the Ten Commandments is to be offered to God in confession.  That’s where the cross shines on us.  The confessional is where the blood of the atonement washes us clean.  May the Lord cleanse us his temples, never with cords and cries, but with mercy, goodness, and love for us.

Fr Paul Rowse, OP Parish Priest

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