Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

THE TEMPLE OF HIS BODY, TEMPLE OF THE WORLD

By Emily VanBerkum

Today’s Gospel recalls the memorable story of Jesus cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem. Since Passover was quickly approaching, Jesus sought to purify the misdeeds occurring in the Temple, which was the cultural and spiritual centre of Judaism, by driving out the sheep, cattle, and money changers with “a whip of cords.” The drama of this scene was spurred on by Jesus’ frustration that “his Father’s house” was being treated like a marketplace.

Although the Temple was a dynamic place of business and trade, and that animals were required for burnt offerings, it was not meant to be defiled by people and things becoming transformed into commodities.

This story contrasts Jesus’ authority with the power of the Temple cult. Because Jesus acted with such intensity and conviction on the cusp of one of the most significant feasts in the Jewish year, the Jewish people in the Temple understandably requested that Jesus explain himself. The Jews asked, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus responded that he will destroy this temple, and in three days he will raise it up. By making this bold and unusual claim (after all, the temple took over forty years to build), Jesus revealed his divine Sonship by expressing that just as God resides in the Temple and Jesus is the manifestation of God on earth, that Jesus himself is the Temple. Amazingly, Jesus also foreshadowed his own resurrection by using the temple as a metaphor for his body. He will inevitably die, but in three days he will be raised by God from the dead.

What an incredible moment of belief- or even disbelief- to imagine Jesus positioning himself as the new Temple. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians helps explain the significance of this metaphor. Because of God’s grace and through death on a cross, Jesus laid the foundation for Christian life. Created in God’s image, we become temples that are built on sacred foundation. If we truly believe that our bodies are temples, and that our lives are all drawn from one unifying foundation, then we are called to reverence for ourselves and all people. We become holy beings whose mission it is to make holy our world, just as God’s Temple was made holy through the incarnation of Jesus, a man in the world.