We have all heard the story of how Christ stormed into the Temple and drove out the moneychangers, merchants, and livestock from The House of God. In doing so, He both physically and symbolically "overturned" the way people had come to see their lives, their faith, and their relationship with each other and, above all, with their God.
This famous thread from Christ's life came near the end of His ministry, yet it eloquently and forcefully calls us to model our lives and our faith in the reflections of divine, holy, and righteous anger which Our Lord exhibited that fateful day.
Degradation and Desecration
The object of Christ's scorn was the gradual yet profound degradation and desecration of the Temple's sacrificial nature and purpose. When originally built, it was a place to approach God Almighty in humility, atonement, sacrifice, and gratitude for The Almighty's many blessings. So great was the respect found at this place, that the stones and boards were precut and taken there for construction, so as to avoid noise in the Presence of God. If the nature of the Temple sacrifice was sincere, humble worship and offering to a God worthy of all praise, the purpose of this sacrifice was to come closer to The Lord and His Word, to empty oneself in praise and adoration to the exclusion of all external, trivial, secular matters.
Gradually, however, the greed, selfishness, and arrogance of man had invaded this sacred place, and the Temple had become a perverted, twisted relic of its former glory. Moneychangers and merchants took advantage of devout pilgrims' physical and financial needs to abuse their spiritual needs. Offering their services and wares at exhorbitant prices, these people placed their greed and arrogance between the people and their God under the guise of charity and service. This debasement would have been sufficient tragedy by itself, but it carried an additional, even more catastrophic sin. While debasing the true sacrificial nature of The Temple, this change also purported to be the true path to practice of the faith, thus adding doctrinal and liturgical fraud and confusion to the deceptions already found within the Temple itself. Not satisfied with degrading the true worship and sacrifice offered to God, the hypocritical and self-seeking authorities had also pulled the sheep away from the true path through their twisted and corrupt lies.
Holy Anger and a Call
Coming across this tragic scene, Our Lord formed a whip and drove out those who would use the Temple for personal gain at the expense of those seeking their God.
In overturning their tables of profit and deception, Christ was turning the tables on what had become the accepted way of honoring the Sabbath. He cared little for the political correctness and empty values of the day, for His purpose was to wake up a comatose people lost in the illusions created by hypocritical authorities pushing their own agendas under the guise of seeking God in a new, more modern way.
Through His actions, our Divine Lord demonstrated that His was an assertive, forceful message, and not some weak, spineless, whispering, politically correct ministry. As he drove out the vestiges of a materialistic, false world, he was spitting out the hypocrital, arrogant, selfish frauds who had infected His Father's House.
The scene at the Temple highlighted the gap between the belief that Christ had come to ease earthly toils and the reality that following Him could mean controversy, rejection, and hardship in a lost and confused world.
Christ was teaching us that following Him meant bringing comfort to the uncomfortable and discomfort to the comfortable. He challenged us to approach God in humble adoration and sacrifice rather than according to our own arrogant, selfish, social, humanist, modernist, and personal agendas.
The Modern Moneychangers and Merchants
Today we see a Church where devotion has become a party, where respect is lost in a sea of modernism and compromise. We see the Real Presence of Christ being pushed aside with twisted notions of social convention and "finding Jesus in each other".
The silence of sacrifice has been replaced with loud pop music and swinging guitars.
Humility and worship have been replaced with networking and socializing. Tears of sorrow for one's sins and joy for one's nearness to God have been replaced with laughter and conversation. We are too good to kneel before the burning bush before which Moses prostrated himself. Our words and song to our God are more about ourselves, nature, and food than about God Himself. It has all become about us and our desires and needs. After all, we are the Church, aren't we? We change liturgy and practice like stores change sales signs,
depending on what is popular.
We have turned worship and sacrifice into assembly and meals. Just as in the days of Christ, our Temple has become a place for transaction, for deals, for trading ideas and agendas.
We exchange the currency of true devotion and faith for the currency of popular opinion and fads.
We sell modernist, humanist, feminist, and New Age notions in a flea market devoid of devotion. Like the rude merchants, we speak and act in every way but the one reflective of being in the Presence of God. We do not approach our Temple seeking to be close to God, but rather seeking to be close to each other. We do not humbly adore and praise but rather arrogantly demand and seek. We have forgotten the true reasons why we come amid the false notions of why we have been told we come.
Our clergy is more afraid of losing popularity and donations than of losing the souls of their flock. Instead of standing as firm bastions of faith and obedience to God, they compromise and fold to appease an ever rebellious people.
Just as Christ drove out the moneychangers and merchants from His Father's House upon entering Jerusalem triumphantly the last week of His life on earth, so too we must allow Him to enter our hearts and souls before we will have the strength and courage to truly follow his example.
Amid all of this confusion and abuse, Christ is handing us a whip and asking us to choose between Him and the moneychangers, merchants, frauds, and hypocrites. The clarion is sounded: Which will you embrace?