Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jesus Calls Religion To Its Truth

So they came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began driving out those who bought and sold in the temple He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to use the temple court as a thoroughfare for carrying goods. Then he began to teach them, and said, 'Does not Scripture say, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations"? But you have made it a robbers' cave.' The chief priests and the doctors of the law heard of this and sought some means of making away with him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city. Mark 11:15-19

A rabbi told me that at the time of Jesus, Judaism had been corrupted. We get a window into that corrupted religion in these gospel verses. Jesus is angry. The temple is noisy, smelly and dirty with all these animals being sold for sacrifices. Who can pray? And since Jews couldn't use Roman coins, which bore Caesar's image, the money had to be exchanged for temple money. And we all know that when one currency is exchanged for another, someone is making money off the deal, leaving someone else cheated. Yes, Jesus is angry.

But there's still more to it. Listen to what God has to say through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah about the way religion can go.

Hear what Yahweh says, you rulers of Sodom;
listen to what our God teaches, you people of Gomorrah.
'What are your endless sacrifices to me?' says Yahweh.
'I am sick of burnt offerings of rams,
and the fat of calves.
I take no pleasure in the blood
of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come and present yourselves before me,
who has asked you to trample through my courts?
Bring no more futile cereal offerings,
the smoke from them fills me with disgust.
New Moons, Sabbaths, assemblies - I cannot endure solemnity
combined with guilt.
Your New Moons and your meetings I utterly detest;
to me they are a burden I am tired of bearing.
When you stretch out your hands I turn my eyes away.
You many multiply your prayers, I shall not be listening.
Your hands are covered in blood,wash, make yourselves clean.
take your wrong-doing out of my sight.
Cease doing evil. Learn to do good,
search for justice, discipline the violent,
be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.'
Isaiah 1:10-17

This same rabbi told me that the temple was effectively a slaughter house. I like the photo up-top here, probably taken from a Jesus movie, because the sheep have been set free. I personally think by this action, Jesus evolves religion, putting an end to all the killing of animals: birds, sheep, lambs, goats and calves.

In the Isaiah prophecy God is repulsed by all the temple blood-letting and burning, especially when offered by a people of unclean heart, guilty of violence, injustice, cruelty and indifference to the weak ones. The ancient priests were also paid to operate in the service of the Roman occupiers. It's a nasty scene and God won't have it.

But of course, every religion needs to take regular stock of itself in this regard, religion so prone to commercialization, always selling something, raffling off something, even pricey high-end items - ironically, all in the name of the one who said, "Own nothing." 

We might read again the Isaiah verses above. They essentially say: You don't sing Sunday hymns while you militarize the planet. You don't burn incense and leave children without adequate health care. You don't light gilded candle sticks while the damaged war vetereans are left untended. We shouldn't doubt it: this Gospel is about us too.


  1. I like this little part of the Mark Gospel for it shows that Jesus could be overcome with emotion. Many sins are committed in the name of religion. Many people are lost and forgotten, even when surrounded by religion. Where did it start? When will it end?

  2. Each religion has to take stock of itself in an on-going way and not waiting for a scandal or crisis. Parishes, dioceses, religious orders, church institutions need their own "Examination of Conscience" not just individual parishioners. And at the heart of that examen are the sins of greed, earthly attachments, power abuse, laxity in worship, loss of the Christ-Center. Real honesty required. I've always liked this Gospel page too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Religion has been corrupt since the beginning of time. What hope do we really have of that changing? We can only make the changes in our own lives. Let it begin in me.

  4. Remember the Michael Jackson song, Man in the Mirror: "I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change."

  5. Father Stephen, you know 80's pop music! Exactly. Look in the mirror and make a change in our own lives first. Then the world becomes a better place for all.

  6. This is a beautiful post and passage. When I first read this passage I used to always think of how Jesus did all this without hate and resentment. And there is such thing as Tough Love. Through much pain and desperation, I came to Christ. And I know I would not have if I was able to be tricked into thinking I could be capable of Living a Life with out Him. And no life is worth living with out Christ. If Christ is not the center, well we know who is and that is not good. And that is a life which is lead with confusion, resentment and anxiety and chaos which society knows all to well since Christ has been taken out of the center of society. It is important for me too see where I am Like the Pharissee whom Jesus was speaking too. Because it applies to me today as much if not more to them then. When I examen myself honestly as I can, I would crumble to despair with out the knowledge of Gods Divine Mercy which is the only thing that encourages me and keeps me moving Forward it is Gods Love. CS Lewis says God suffers with us too, if we hurt he hurts, if we sin he is hurt. I would argue Christ is hurt more than Us. The More we love someone the more our affection is effected, and Christ Loves us More Than Divine which would mean he suffers as greatly too. But CS lewis then continues to say that Christ will bring you to Him at no matter what cost to You and no matter what cost to Him. That has always stuck in my heart. Because it was Christ who grabbed me. Not asked, not pointed but grabbed me out of my own death just as he was chasing the Pharissees, the money exchangers. As he chose and sought and found the unwanted, the sinners to be His Disciples.