Does your church rejoice in faith —or is it a den of thieves?…
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
NOVEMBER 20, 2015
Brothers and Sisters,
The reading from Maccabees tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple, which had been destroyed by pagans and those obsessed by worldliness. The people of God celebrated, they rejoiced because they had rekindled their true identity.
Those who indulge in worldliness do not know how to celebrate – they can’t celebrate! At most, the worldly spirit can provide amusement, it can provoke excitement, but true joy can only come from faith in the Covenant.
In the Gospel, Jesus drives merchants away from the Temple saying “It is written: my house shall be called the house of prayer. But you have made it a den of thieves.” At the time of the Maccabees, worldly desire displaced the Living God. But now it is happening in another way altogether.
The Gospel says the chief priests and scribes had changed things. They had dishonored and compromised the Temple. They had dishonored the Temple! The Temple was a symbol of the Church. The Church will always – always! – be subject to the temptation of worldliness and power.
Jesus did not say ‘No, do not do this inside. Go outside instead.’ He said ‘You have made it a den of thieves!’ And when the Church enters into such a state of decline, the end is bad. Very bad indeed.
There is always a danger of corruption within the Church. This happens when the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in Our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated by money and power.
This is exactly what happens here in this Gospel reading. These priests, chief priests and scribes were driven by money, power and they ignored the Holy Spirit. And in order to be able to justify their actions, they poisoned the free spirit of the Lord with hypocrisy.
In Matthew 23, Jesus speaks of their hypocrisy. These were people who had lost their sense of Godliness, and even the ability to rejoice, to praise God. They did not know how to worship the Lord because they were too distracted by money and power, and by a form of worldliness.
Jesus did not chase the priests and scribes away from the Temple; he chased away those who were doing business there, the businessmen of the Temple. The chief priests and scribes were involved in their dealings: this is ‘holy bribery’!
The Gospel is very clear. It says “The chief priests and scribes wanted to kill Jesus, along with the elders of the people.” The same thing happened under the rule of Judas Maccabeus. Why? Because ‘they did not know what they were doing, since everyone hung on his every word.”
Jesus’ strength is to be found in his words, in his love. And where Jesus is, there is no room for worldliness. There is no room for corruption! This is a challenge for each and every one of us; this is the struggle the Church has to face every day.
We must always heed Jesus’ words; we must never seek comfort from another master. Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters. God or riches; God or power.
We ought to pray for the Church. We must hold in our hearts today’s martyrs, who suffer and die, so as not to be ensnared by worldly desires, by obsession, by apostasy. Today!
Today, there are more martyrs of the Church than there ever were before. Let’s think about that. It does us good to think about them.
Pray that we may never fall into the trap of worldliness, where we will be obsessed only by money and power.
Translation from Vatican Radio