The Temple played an important part in the life of Israel fundamentally because the Temple was considered God’s own house, His dwelling place on earth in the midst of his people. The Jews believed that God lives in heaven, but he hears the prayers that are addressed to him in the Temple. They looked upon the Temple as a sort of good luck charm that would protect them against hostile forces, whether or not they lived so as to deserve protection (Jer 7:1-15; 26:1-15; see Exod 8-10).
The Temple played an important part in the life of the Israel secondarily as place of worship and sacrifice or assembly. Although there were many shrines throughout the land, particularly during the period of judges, the Temple is said to be the center of legitimate worship; indeed as the only place of worship in Israel; and it is true that eventually it was recognized as such.
Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the temple of Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth (Lk 2:22-39). At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business (Cf. Lk:46-49). He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover (Cf. Lk 2:41). His public ministry was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts (Cf. Jn 2:13-14; 5:1; 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8:2; 10:22-23) (CCC 583).
Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer. In today’s Gospel narrative, he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce (Cf. Mt 21:13). So, he drove merchants out of it and commanded them: “You shall not make the my Father’s house a house of trade (Luke 19:46).
Christ gave reason for his dislodging the temple-merchants (Lk 19:46). The temple is a house of prayer, set apart for communion with God: the buyers and sellers made it a den of thieves by the fraudulent bargains they made there, which were hurting the poor and the pilgrims who can least afford them, for it would be a distraction to those who came there to pray.
What are some of the possible moral applications that we can take from this narrative?
First, the Temple is God’s house, His dwelling place in the midst of His people here on earth. Hence, it is sacred that demands due care and reverence. Profanation or desecration through sexual immoralities, murder, divination and occult, idolatry, immodest attire and gestures and blasphemous words must be avoided at all times, at all costs and by all means.
Second, the Temple is a place of worship and sacrifice. Make this as your motivation and purpose in going to the Church and keep them clear. Hence, never go to Church to steal, to slander, to boast your riches, power and beautiful body, to do business, to give intrigue and scandal, to observe passively as spectators and strangers and to sleep.
Third, the Temple is a place set apart, dedicated and consecrated for the glorification of God and sanctification of humankind. Hence, other uses or functions like making the Church or chapel a place of eating; seminar or conference hall, rest house, study hall, concert hall and stage for the program or any ceremony must be avoided, if not, prohibited.
Fourth, the Church is the fulfillment of the Temple. Hence, we must have a passionate love for the Church. In the new covenant of Jesus, the Temple is fulfilled in the Church. The Church is so important in God’s plan that Jesus calls the Church His body (e.g. Eph 1:22-23) and His bride (see Eph 5:25ff). Jesus has given the Church the keys of God’s kingdom (Mt 16:19). Jesus loves the Church so much that He died for her (Eph 5:25). “Christians of the first centuries said, ‘The world was created for the sake of the Church’ ” (Catechism, 760). “The Church is the goal of all things” (Catechism, 760).
Pray that you will love the Church as much as Jesus wants you to love her. Ask Him to cleanse your temple of all sins (see Lk 19:46ff), especially pride and selfishness, so that you will love His Temple, the Church, as He does. Dedicate and consecrate once again yourself to the Lord (see 1 Mc 4:54ff). Because you are a member of His body, your constant dedication and consecration will build up the Church. Live and die for Jesus and for His Church.