The Readings for the 15th Friday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Saint Bonaventure, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor of the Church
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.Matthew 12:6
NASTY RELIGIOUS PEOPLE in today’s Gospel are trying to make the Disciples follow their mean nasty rules. Americans – and the west in general – don’t like rules. So we read this passage in our favor and along comes the Liberal Jesus to tear up all their rules and say, “Begone! You have no power here!” And we’re thankful for that, right? It’s a good fund raiser and you may hear it from a few pulpits today.
In his Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI takes issue with those who would imagine the Good Jesus of the West as fighting against the Old Religious Baddies. In the context provided by the whole chapter, instead of tiny little snippets, the Pope Emeritus shows that Jesus is not being liberal here, at all. He’s being God. (I had posted a paper about this passage a while ago, along with a follow-up on the image of a yoke.)
Today, what can we learn about the Apostles in this passage? What can we draw into our own life?
The Apostles are doing what any poor person is allowed to do: walk through a field and pull the grains off the stalks, rubbing them together in hand to get the chaff off before chewing the grains. To do this on the Sabbath, though, is not allowed. Jesus then has some back and forth with the religious leaders. Yet it was his comment on the Temple that spun my brain out into lectio land.
What is the Temple? Well, yes, the house of God. But it is the meeting-place of heaven and earth. It is a new Eden in typology: surrounding the fiery presence of God (that is, the Tree of Life) there are sculptures and woven curtains depicting cherubim, plants, and animals. All of the Temple liturgy represented bringing all of Creation before God for a continual act of renewal, even the individual offering were intended to sanctify daily life, bringing all things in Israel within the Divine Sphere.
But wait, there’s more.
As the Holy of Holies was the center of the Temple, and as the Temple was the center of Israel, so also was Israel the center of the world. Israel was not only “being holy”, if you will, but also modeling holiness to the world. Israel’s mission was to be a holy people set apart for the Lord of Hosts for the purpose, as God promises Abraham, of being a blessing to all nations.
When Jesus says he is more important than the Temple, this is his claim. He is mindful of all of this. As the God-Man he is the place where heaven and earth meet. In his person all of creation is continually presented to God the Father in a continual act of renewal and thanksgiving. In his person blessings are showered down on Israel and the world.
But wait: there’s more.
In John 2:21, we hear of the “temple of his (Jesus’) body”. Paul says that we are “members of his body” (Ephesians 5:30). Then, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, we are reminded that our bodies are the temple as well. What is true of Jesus in his person is intended to be true of us in his grace.
This is, certainly, something Greater Than the Temple. And it’s not at all related to Jesus throwing dishwater on the nasty religious laws.