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Root and branch

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers." Mark 11. 15-17


When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass that first Palm Sunday, the fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy (9.9) would have been apparent to most Jews. Those who knew their history would also have been thinking of Judas Maccabaeus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem to cleanse the Temple, following the uprising he and his sons led against their Greek oppressors under Antiochus Epiphanes, who had committed the abomination of desecration by sacrificing pork meat on the altar and offering it to the pagan gods.


But a surprise was in store. The next day Jesus did indeed cleanse the Temple - but not of the Greeks' Roman successors. Rather, he drove out the Jews' themselves who were desecrating that sacred space in their own way: making a quick buck out of unsuspecting pilgrims and oppressed peasants.


We may consider ourselves the victims of forces beyond our control and justified in doing whatever it take to get by. But, if our actions are harming others or the environment, we cannot consider ourselves exempt from God's judgment any more than the vendors and money-lenders who incurred the wrath of Jesus. Before it comes to that, why not let Holy Week deliver us from evil, by inviting God to cleanse the temple of our hearts, so that no further unclean thought or action may emanate from us but only that which glorifies God and blesses our neighbour?

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