Homily on Second Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church
Stop Making my Father’s House a Marketplace (Jn 2:16)
The Gospel for this second anniversary is the same as the one proclaimed at the Mass of Dedication. On this occasion, I would like to draw your attention to this detail: When Jesus “found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables” (Jn 2:14-15) and said to them: “stop making my Father’s house a marketplace” (Jn 2:16). To understand why there was such a strong reaction from the Lord, let us ponder upon what the temple, specifically here in Jerusalem, meant to a faithful Jew.
The temple was the most important institution and building in Jewish life. Dedicated as a place where God dwelt among His people in a special manner, the temple was a crucial factor and component in Jewish life. The temple was God’s house, the place where He made Himself known, instructed His people and received their worship. The purpose of the temple was summarized very well in the prayer of the dedication of King Solomon which was selected as the First Reading for our celebration (1Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30). The psalmist reiterated: “How lovely is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD” (Ps 84: 2-3). As an observant Jew, Jesus went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and entered the temple area to pray on the Passover just like we, His disciples, are called to worship the Almighty God on every Sunday and Holy Day. Understanding the significance of the temple for a faithful Jew is the first step in comprehending why Jesus reacted so strongly with the “marketplace” activities in Jerusalem.
Hearing this Gospel today, what is the message that the Lord calls our community to witness to Him? Our attention is on one word: “silence.” The General Instruction of the Roman Missal paragraph number 45 speaks about the importance of silence during the liturgy, but adds: “Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in the adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” Why does silence need to be observed in church before and after the Mass as well?
In most dedicated churches like ours, in the middle front of the sanctuary there is a tabernacle and there reposes the REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST! Friends, in keeping this holy silence, we proclaim in the context of the season of Advent, the Immanuel—God is with us! (Mt 1:23). The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist fulfills His promise to humanity: “I am with you even to the end of the world” (Mt 28:20). Some of us recall two years ago, near the end of the Dedication Mass, our Bishop put on the humeral veils and carried the ciborium in procession throughout all the aisles of this building and stopped at the Tabernacle to repose the Real Presence of our Lord. Nobody said a word, but all were on their knees in acknowledging the REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST. In any parish, there are auxiliary spaces (narthex, vestibule, lounge, and hall). These spaces are constructed to fulfill the social needs, which are especially important for parish family life. Every effort, however, must be to reserve the church as a place of worshipping God and to hear God calling us to be His people. As “marketplace” activities have no room in Jerusalem, non-worship activities have no space in our church.
I would like to conclude this homily with this saying of Padre Pio or Saint Pius of Pietrelcina whom our patron saint John Paul II has great admiration: “I exhort you in the Lord to practice the following. Enter the church in silence and with great respect, considering yourself unworthy to appear before the Lord’s Majesty. Then take Holy Water and make the Sign of the Cross carefully and slowly. As soon as you are before God in the Blessed Sacrament, devoutly genuflect.” Please follow the advice of the saint, because the church here on earth leads us to what the sacred author in the Letter to the Hebrews, the Second Reading for our celebration, indicates: “you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,* and God the judge of all, and the spirit of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently* than that of Abel (Heb 12: 22-24)
Scriptural Readings: Reading 1 1Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30; Responsorial Psalm 84: 3, 4, 5 and 10, 11; Reading 2 Heb 12:18-19, 22-24; Alleluia see Mt 7: 8; Gospel Jn 2:13-22