This is the third Sunday of Lent and the gospel is fascinating. The cleansing of the temple is a scene found in all four Gospels, that itself tells us how important the event is. In the synoptic Gospels- Mark, Matthew, and Luke- it comes at the end of the story during Holy Week. Because Jesus attacks the corrupt system for funding the High priest and his family, they decide to kill him.
In John’s Gospel, the event happens early in the public ministry, right after the miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. John has independent sources unavailable to the synoptic, and his Gospel is written later than the others allowing it to be more theological.
For John the cleansing of the temple is a theological statement. Jesus is the Word made Flesh who comes to dwell with us. For John, Jesus is the fulfillment of the old. He is the Light of the world; He is the living water; He is the Bread of life; He is the way the truth and the life; He is the Resurrection and the life. In John, as Jesus cleanses the temple, He declares himself the ‘New Temple’, the new focus of God’s presence. Where Jesus is, there is the Trinity. Where Jesus is, we who dwell in him, share in the life of the Trinity.
In the theology of St. Paul, the Church is the Body of the Risen Christ, thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the New Temple, and so we have constant access to God’s presence. The tabernacle in our sanctuary holds Jesus, but He is not confined to that holy place. He is present when the Scriptures are proclaimed. He is present in the community gathered to celebrate the Eucharist. He is present in the consecrated bread and wine, now His Body and Blood. He is present in the presider at each Eucharist. In Jesus, the temple is wherever the Holy Spirit is present. We all share in this great blessing.