Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard about the moment listed in the Book of the Maccabees when the forces of the Maccabean Rebellion advanced on the holy Mount Zion just outside of Jerusalem, the place where the Temple of God was placed since the days of Solomon, and retook it from the forces of the Greek Seleucids that had profaned it under the orders of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
In today’s reading, we heard how the forces of the faithful Jews retook the Temple and was committed to its rededication and repurification, to remove all the taints of the defilements, the idols, the pagan worship and all corruptions that the Seleucids and their supporters had brought on the holy House of God. Judas Maccabeus, the leader of the rebellion ordered the old defiled Altar of the Temple to be torn down, and then rebuilt anew, symbolising its renewal and purification.
We heard of the great joy with which the people celebrated the liberation and purification of the Temple of God, as a very pivotal and important moment in the struggle of the faithful people of God against those who oppressed them, the pagans and those who had inflicted much sufferings just as we have heard in the past few days of the discourses from the Book of Maccabees. The people had finally seen the salvation of God, His providence and deliverance to them.
That was why they rejoiced so greatly, for the coming of the Lord’s promised salvation and deliverance from their enemies. They had seen the light in the midst of their suffering and the darkness, and hope had once again been rekindled in their hearts. This is also the festival still celebrated today as the Hanukkah by the Jewish community, as it was told that at that occasion, when the Temple of God was retaken and reconsecrated, there was only enough oil to light up the menorah or the seven-branched candles for a day, and yet, miraculously, it remained lighted for the whole period of the eight days of celebrations.
In our Gospel passage today, we then heard a related account of the Lord Who came to the Temple of Jerusalem, the same Temple that was liberated by the Maccabees just less than two centuries before the time of Christ. Ironically, at that time, the Lord Himself came to Jerusalem and drove out the many merchants and money changers who had taken up office in the courtyards of the Temple with the collusion and cooperation with the chief priests of the Temple of God.
Why did the Lord have to clear those people away from the Temple? Many of them acted dishonestly and cheated the innumerable pilgrims and the other people who came to worship the Lord at His Temple. They overcharged the people and sold their products or exchanged the money for the pilgrims at high profits. The necessity of exchanging money was made necessary because the commonly circulating Greek and Roman coins had the faces of the rulers, who were then considered as divine, and therefore were unsuitable for use in the Temple.
Unfortunately, the greed of those merchants and the money changers, which were supported by the Temple officials, the chief priests and elders, who likely also benefitted from the arrangement resulted in the Temple of God being defiled yet again, with the idolatry of money and greed, and with the dishonesty and wickedness of those who had mistreated and cheated the innocent worshippers and all those who came seeking to worship the Lord in His Temple.
That was why the Lord chased out all of those merchants and money changers, and cleansed the Temple much as how the Maccabees purified the Temple from the defilement of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The Lord chastised all those who had corrupted and defiled the holy House of God, and reminded them that it should remain holy and worthy. And this is a reminder to all of us that we must also keep ourselves holy and worthy and not defile ourselves with the corruption of sins of the world.
Why is that so? That is because we ourselves are the Temples of God’s Holy Presence, the dwelling place of the Lord Most High, as we have partaken in His Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit has also descended upon us and dwelled in us. As such, God Himself dwells in us and as a result, all of us are also, the ‘Houses of God’. And if the Temple of God in Jerusalem had been made clean and holy, purified and worthy for God, then all of us must also make sure that our lives and actions are worthy for God.
That is the most important takeaway we have from today’s Scripture readings, and we have to strive to keep ourselves wholly dedicated to God, to keep His Law and commandments that He has given us through His Church, and live our lives as holy and worthy as possible. Let us all also inspire one another in being faithful so that we may be good role models and examples for one another, and serve the Lord faithfully together as one people, one community and one Church. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours and efforts. Amen.