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We are Standing on Holy Ground
A Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 19 45-48
(Internet Image from “Take - off - Your- Sandals. - Take - off - Your- Sandals. Poem by Dr. Antony Theodore”)
In the Gospel today, we read of our Lord’s response to seeing people within the temple conducting business, “selling things”. Although the exchange of money and the selling of items for sacrifice were necessary to temple worship, such exchange does not belong within the confines of the temple. Perhaps many, to include the priests, scribes, and leaders of the people turned a blind eye to what was going on because of the profit gained through the buying and selling. The business of religion, not worship, had become the “ends” for activity.
Consider why the righteous anger of Jesus is aroused. People are profiting and, as a result of greed, denying access to those too poor to afford the cost of reconciliation with God in accordance with His law. Imagine being so poor that you could not afford the means to justification. How infuriating that had to be to our Lord. Business had replaced worship and become an obstacle to righteousness. In Scripture, divine anger is stirred up against all human sin, disobedience, rebellion, and wickedness. In this case it is egregious! The Lord quotes Isaiah as He reminds the authorities of what the Temple is for,
Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7 NABRE)
Jesus is very blunt as He quotes Jeremiah condemning them, “but you have made [the Temple] a den of thieves.” (Luke 19:46 NABRE)
Jeremiah is condemning those that believe that they can chase after other gods and then come back to the Temple and declare themselves righteous (Jeremiah 7:8–11). In this case, you cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). That is very clearly what Jesus is telling the chief priests, scribes, and leaders of the people. Jesus’ words sting and they desire to kill Him, not because He is wrong, for they know He is not, but because their greed is clearly exposed. People hang on to Jesus’ every word because they recognized truth.
We should be cautious in sitting comfortably today in judgment of these merchants and temple authorities.
How often have we misused our own Worship Space as a place to catch up with friends, exchange gossip, discuss the latest political or Church controversy, conduct Church or any other kind of business? In short, we are chasing our own agendas, our own business. We sit in the Holy of Holies with our Lord present in the Tabernacle before us, and we are oblivious. How often have we done this despite noticing that there is someone several pews over who, sitting or on their knees, are engaged in prayer? How often has someone asked us to step outside or, shushed us, and we have responded with anger or passive refusal? It is then that Isaiah’s words should come back to us, “For my house shall be called a house of prayer.”
The Church has long attested to the statement, “lex orandi, lex credendi;” the law of prayer is the law of faith, the Church believes as she prays. Let us never lose sight of this. Our Liturgy, (spoken and sung) is not a performance to be applauded, but a prayer to be offered in the presence of God. In our worship space, in the temple, we enter the Holy of Holies through the blood of Christ. We are on sacred ground! When we lose our sense of the sacred in our worship space, ignoring God’s presence in our actions, we cannot be surprised that many within the Church lose their understanding of the Real Presence of Jesus, God Incarnate, in the Blessed Sacrament.
How is it then that we should act in the presence of God? St Paul gives us a hint in his letter to the Romans,
for it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” (Romans 14:11)
Our worship space is a place of prayer, both in posture and voice, whether aloud or in the silence of our heart. Like Moses standing before the Burning Bush, on fire with God’s presence, we are on holy ground. It is not the place for anything but prayer and entering into the presence of the Lord. We hear God tell Moses to take off his shoes in His presence!
God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. (Exodus 3:5 NABRE)
How can we ignore where we are as did the merchants and those who allowed them in the Gospel today? Our Worship Space is a place of miracles, where heaven meets earth. It is Holy Ground! “To grasp the mystery, all that is necessary on the part of the believer is intrinsic readiness and calm reflection; then his heart will respond with reverence.” (Cardinal Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent) Let our readiness and calm reflection of heart be our soul purpose, pun intended, in our Worship Space. Let us then remember and rejoice that we are so very blessed, in every Catholic sanctuary, to be standing on holy ground!
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Sarah, Robert Cardinal. The Day Is Now Far Spent. Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.
“Take - off - Your- Sandals. - Take - off - Your- Sandals. Poem by Dr. Antony Theodore.” Poem Hunter, 1 Apr. 2020, www.poemhunter.com/poem/take-off-your-sandals/. Accessed 17 Nov. 2022.