“You are the body of Christ” Reflection for 3rd Sunday of Lent
Like any other pious Jew, Jesus would have travelled to Jerusalem every year at the time of the Passover to celebrate this great Festival. Traveling from Galilee, it was a journey which took a couple of days. The Jerusalem Road that Jesus travelled brought him to the East gate of the city, which led directly into the Temple. Actually the gate led into the area close to where sheep, lambs and animals were sold so that people would be able to offer them up as sacrifice. One can imagine, for someone who is on a pilgrimage with pious thoughts on one’s mind as one made the journey, how shocking it must have been if a market place is the first scene you encounter. It comes as a bit of an anti-climax and shock.
Jesus’ immediate reaction was to feel that this should not be so! The house of God should be a house of prayer and not a place of commerce and business. Jesus turns his shock into action, and starts driving anyone in his way out of the temple.
When challenged, Jesus makes an interesting statement; I will destroy this Temple and rebuild it in three days. The Temple will no longer be the place where one could encounter God, but rather the encounter with God from now on will be through the person of Jesus. From now on, it is the body of Christ that is the true house of God. The early disciples came to realise that Jesus was actually God incarnate, the Word made flesh. That is why for the Christians, the temple no longer held the same significance as it does for the Jews.
In driving the merchants out of the temple, Jesus is being driven by a certain zeal and love of God; he is not indifferent, but takes concrete action. He could easily have continued about his business, and let things be.
God is not indifferent to our world; he actually loves us so much that he gave his Son to share in our human reality. The Temple of the Body of Jesus was indeed destroyed when he had to endure a terrible passion and end up crucified on the cross. But faithful to his promise, on the third day he did rise again, and with him the community of believers.
The early Christians came to an even deeper realisation. After Jesus’ resurrection, they came to identify themselves with the body of Christ, with the Risen Lord. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians said clearly: “You are the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27). They were a persecuted church, and they saw in their suffering a continuation of Jesus’ own suffering for the redemption of humanity.
We do live nowadays in an era where Christians are being martyred publicly. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26) The news of the beheading of the 21 Coptic Christians, and the kidnapping and killing of so many people, causes anguish to one and all.
The Holy Father urges us not to be indifferent but to be engaged. First through prayer; praying for the needs of those who suffer, firmly believing in the power of prayer. Then through acts of charity, especially towards those who are poor and in need. Indeed, If Jesus lives in us and we in him, then we are his body, we are his temple. It is our mission today to bring Jesus to others.