“His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

John 2:17

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

John 2:13-25

Many people, I suspect, are uneasy when they read the cleansing of the temple. It feels to them like violence, perhaps the kind of text that can be (and has been) used to rationalise violence. Others see the temple in their minds and see it as an attack on religion.

Think of this analogy: How many of you have been in church when someone starts shouting and disrupts the service? What feelings arise: a feeling of threat (after all, the shouter is often slightly crazy); embarrassment; irritation at being disturbed in one’s prayers?

Most times, disrupters are just nuisances.

But does that make Jesus a nuisance? Now put aside your assumptions about him that may make you short-circuit this exercise – well, it’s Jesus, it must be different! – and then imagine what he might be shouting about in a church or synagogue or mosque today.  

But sometimes disrupters are making a point about something. Corruption in public life, including the church, is by no means unheard of today. Injustice abounds in fact. Sometimes our institutions (religious and political, social and economic) – no matter how old and distinguished, even those that seem to come directly from God – do not live up to the values they officially endorse. At times they may even be turned into money-making rackets serving the greed of those who lead.

Such circumstances may lead a prophet to speak out – even to act. It is a decision never taken lightly, needing careful and prayerful discernment over whether and how to act.

Could it be that sometimes out of loyalty to what an institution stands for – zeal for this house – the only right option is, in fact, to protest?

Even, for the sake of God, to disrupt a house of God?   

Loving God,

Give us Christ’s wisdom to know whether and when to act or keep silent;

May the Spirit guide us that we seek to act with courage mixed with prudence.


Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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