Reflection on the Daily Readings for 3/15/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Third Sunday of Lent (B cycle). Exodus 20:1-17. Psalm 19:
184.108.40.206. I Cor. 1:22-25. John 2:13-25. Lectionary # 29:
Lent is now almost half over as we move into the third Sunday of the
B Cycle. We are now going to see more of John's Gospel as we get closer to
Holy Week--even the Sunday readings turn to John during the following weeks
and sometimes on the Sunday.
Today's Gospel is unique in where it situates the event of Jesus'
cleansing the Temple. It is not to be seen from a chronological point of
view but from its symbolic meaning and its theological perspective. The
fact that all four of our Gospels contains this event point to it as
historically true. It would be another reason why the road to the Cross is
certainly ahead of Jesus' days. Since all four Gospels do contain it, the
scene is called one of "multiple attestation." This is one of the
principles that those who favor the historical critical method of studying
the Bible affirm with great confidence.
As we search for its meaning within the Gospel of John we realize
that it could be reflecting the final act of Jesus as a type of foretelling
of it. The sign at Cana has strengthened the faith of his mother and
disicples for the beginning of his active ministry; now they are being
prepared for the end of his life here on earth. Those who do not catch the
message but rather look toward a literal explanation of the destruction of
the Temple are doing precisely what Jesus' opponents do--interpreting him
literally. Irony, paradox, and symbolism are always to be kept in mind as
we meditate upon John's Gospel and Jesus' acts and words within it. It is
a Gospel of Revelation primarily meant for those who believe in the Person
of Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. All of these words are
symbolic of who Jesus is for the believer.
John is not unaware of the historical Jesus. In fact, his Gospel is a
profound Christian reflection on the historical events that really happened
in the life of Jesus. Even here we have an example to show that he is
quite aware of Jesus' age. The Temple was still being rebuilt. Herod the
Great was behind this project already in 19 B.C. Now John tells us that the
Temple is in its 46th year of being rebuilt. This means the event of the
cleansing is probably happening in 26-28 A.D. We have some markers here
that help us reconstruct even the chronological age of Jesus. It is also
in this Gospel that the Judeans say to Jesus, "You are not yet fifty years
old..." (John 8:57).
John then gets the reader to look more at events from a "kairos"
point of view, that is, from the perspective of God and not from a
"chronos" point, that is, from the way humans calculate time in events. It
is the reality of faith that the temple that is the body of Jesus will be
raised up. He is not speaking of the Temple in Jerusalem but of his own
temple filled with the Holy Spirit of God which he will breathe forth on
the Beloved Disciple and his own Mother Mary as he dies on the Cross thus
creating something new in them-- the Church. John uses his historical
memory of Jesus in helping us to learn how to read the signs of Jesus' time
in the light of his realized eschatology or the theologcial view of looking
at the bigger picture in the light of faith. Raymond E. Brown, S.S. says,
" Thus the Jerusalem Temple, which has been turned into a marketplace, has
been replaced by the body of Jesus as the true holy place." (Intro. to
This third Sunday of Lent helps prepare us for the coming of Holy
Week just as our reading from John does in his second chapter. (John
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