This week’s Mass readings from the 1st Book of Maccabees tell the story of the re-dedication of the temple of Jerusalem three years after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes. About the year 167 BC, Jews under Judas Maccabeus re-conquered Jerusalem and restored the temple, the heart of their religion.
The first reading on Friday describes the rededication of the temple to its former glory. The Jews continue to celebrate it in the feast of Hannukah. (1 Maccabees 4,36-61}
The New Testament writers, certainly aware of this historic event, recall Jesus cleansing the temple.(Friday’s gospel) Entering Jerusalem after his journey from Galilee, “ Jesus went into the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” Then, “every day he was teaching in the temple area” until he was arrested and put to death. (Luke 19,45-48)
Cleansing the temple was a symbolic act. By it, Jesus signified he is the presence of God, the Word made flesh, the new temple of God.
Luke says Jesus taught in the temple “every day.” As our eternal high priest, he teaches us every day and brings us every day to his Father and our Father.
Jesus is the temple that cannot be destroyed. At his trial before he died, witnesses gave testimony that was half right when they said he spoke of destroying the temple. When he spoke about the destruction of the temple, Jesus was speaking of the temple of his own body. Death seemed to destroy him, but he was raised up on the third day.
We share in this mystery as “members of his body.” Yet, we’re a sacramental people and need places to come together, to pray and to meet God who “dwells among us.” We need churches and holy places. We instinctively revolt when we see them go, or are not frequented.
Old stories carry lessons.