The first Reading taken from the book of Exodus, (Ex 20:1-17), presented us with the Ten Commandments of God. These commandments should be seen within the context of the relationship the Lord had developed with the people of Israel.
The Lord called the ancestor of the Jewish people Abraham from the Chaldean city of Ur, in modern day Iraq and re-settled him in the land of Canaan. The Jewish people later migrated to Egypt in search of greener pastures. When they were enslaved in Egypt, they cried to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord sent Moses to Egypt to help the Israelites escape from their bondage. The Lord had sent multiple plagues on the Egyptians which made them let the people of Israel go, so that they, (the Israelites), could rebuild their lives. When the people of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai on their way to their homeland, the Lord made a covenant with them.
The people of Israel were to be a priestly nation, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to worship God, if only they kept the commandments of God. The people of Israel promised to follow God’s commandments when they said, “all that God had said, we will do, (Ex 19:8).
The Lord is the one who takes the initiative to relate with us. He said, “I have called you by name and you are mine”, (Is 43:1); in the same vein, Jesus said, “you did not choose me, no, I chose you and I commission you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last”, (Jn 15:16). Hence, it is within this context of the people of Israel’s response and our response to God’s graciousness that the Ten Commandments of God find their place. The commandments relate to our relationship with God in the vertical level and our relationship with our fellow human beings in the horizontal level, (a code of conduct for living in the society). It reminds us that the Lord is the only one to be adored, worshipped, and glorified. Hence, we ought to have space for God in our hearts and a deep-seated reverence for His name.
The Ten Commandments of God then draw our attention to our relationship with our parents, by asking us to honour them. The book of Proverbs advised us to “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Prov 23:22). It then underscores the need to preserve life and for us not to indulge in activities that would endanger the life of anyone including character assassinations, (be your brother’s/sister’s keeper). It also invites us to be mindful of the needs of others by respecting their space. We should not take what belongs to others without their permission, (no stealing). It also upholds the sanctity of marriage.
It is within this framework of our free response to God’s graciousness that we reflect on the Gospel of today, (Jn 2:13-25). Jesus went into the temple and drove out all those who were desecrating the house of God by their activities. We read, “Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’”
Jesus’ cleansing of the temple draws our attention to the fact that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Jesus prophesied about his impending death and resurrection when he responded to the Jews, “’destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up.’” The Gospel clarified that the ‘sanctuary’ Jesus was referring to was his body.
Our bodies which are temples of the Holy Spirit, (1Cor 6:19-20), need cleansing during this period of Lent. Let us have the same zeal that Jesus had for the mission entrusted to him by the Father, so that we will die with him during this Lent by our acts of penitence, prayer, and almsgiving, and rise with him on Easter Sunday! Amen.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp