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Jesus Overturns the Tables of the Money Changers

Jesus Overturns the Tables of the Money Changers

March 3, 2024

In the reading we had at vigils from the homily for the Third Sunday of Lent (Jn 2:13-25) by the Latin Patriarch, Cardinal Pizzaballa, he made this striking comment: “Jesus overturns the money-changers counters, but first of all he overturns an image of God and a way of believing”.  This is a stunning statement: ‘Jesus overthrows, reverses, overturns’: behind the prophetic gesture of overturning the tables Jesus is overthrowing an image of God.  And indeed, as we ponder the gospels, we see this repeatedly. Have we ever viewed Jesus’ entire ministry from his baptism to his death and resurrection as a revelation of God, of who God is?  We know God through Jesus.  With Jesus we are led into the Trinitarian relationship of love.  Jesus is overturning an image of God and a way of believing.  What image of God needs to be overthrown, reversed within us?

Yesterday we had the reading of the ‘Prodigal Son’ (Lk 15: 1-3,11-32) at Mass.  New Testament scholars have indicated that the more appropriate title for this parable is the ‘Prodigal Father’.  Inserting this parable in the Jewish culture of Jesus’s time for the younger son to take his inheritance and leave the family was shocking…Such an action would immediately alienate, separate him from his family.  And yet when the younger son re-finds himself, he returns, ready to do penitence.  However, the father will have none of it…he embraces his son and calls for a party, a celebration.  The father is overflowing in love and forgiveness at ‘this son who was lost and now is found’.  Jesus overturns an image of God and reveals the unconditional love and mercy of the Father.  It is no longer a God who is distant from human life and experience but a God who is now flesh of our flesh.

In Mark’s gospel Jesus begins his public ministry with these words: “The kingdom of God is here.  Repent and believe in the good news” (Mk 1:14-15).  It is God’s initiative first…the reign of God has arrived.  The imperative directed to us: ‘repent’, or ‘convert’ and ‘believe’.  Repent: change your way of thinking, expand your horizon…break your heart open for conversion, for change…We encounter in Jesus the arrival of the reign of God, an image of God that is forgiving, ‘loving to the end’.  Jesus, through his word and actions, is embodying a God who is unconditional love.  No longer an ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’.  No: we are called to love our enemies for this is what God does.  

‘Overturning an image of God and a way of believing’.  Believing is not an abstract notion.  Rather, it is a way of living into the reality of Divine life.  A moving example is the woman who was a sinner who goes into the house of the Pharisee and anoints Jesus with oil and her tears (Lk 7:36-50).  Her love contained in her faith has saved her.  In the encounter with Jesus and his Word, we are given access to the God of love…the fullness of God’s love has become incarnate in him and through Christ we now have access to this love that is stronger than death. 

‘I have come not abolish the law and the prophets but to complete them’ (Mt 5:17).  How does Jesus complete the ‘law and prophets?’  ‘New wine needs new skins’ (Mk 2:22). What is the new wine and new skins that Jesus proclaims in word and in deed?  How do we shift into Jesus’ way of seeing and being?   I think it is one word: conversion, change of heart and mind.  In the New Catholic Dictionary of Spirituality, it is written: “Conversion is caught up in the mystery of grace operating within human transformation and the potentiality for persons and cultures to become a new creation” (p.230).  To convert: grace is ever-present to change us from within so that we become this new creation, indeed more Christ-like, loving as God loves.

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

Chapter Talk – Third Sunday of Lent – March 3, 2024, cycle-B

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