In the mind of the Jewish people of Jesus’ time, the temple had come to be identified with the place where authentic worship of God took place.
The average worshiper saw nothing amiss in having animals and coins set aside for sacrificial use within the temple. Jesus had a different perception of worship, however.
He identifies himself as the temple. What Jesus did when he knocked over the money changers’ tables was to indicate a drastic shift in what it means to worship God; to be in God’s presence.
Jesus replaced the temple as the focus of worship with Himself. He referred to Himself as the new temple which could not be destroyed. Jesus' answer was "Destroy this temple," and then he said, "and in three days I will raise it up."
Here, he was referring to the Resurrection when he would rise from the pale tomb of death in three days.
The only way we can be in relationship with God is to worship in an entirely new way.
To be one with God is to be one with Jesus. The commandments, in themselves, are not the whole will of God for us. Not by the commandments alone does man worship!
This is the heart of Jesus’ message. To think that the commandments alone are sufficient is to fall into the trap of the Pharisees who deluded themselves into thinking that God’s will is contained only in the observance of the law.
Living only legally can lead to great acts of inhumanity. Such inhumanity led the Pharisees to condemn Jesus to death; it allowed them to have a woman caught in adultery stoned to death; it justified their practice of laying impossible burdens on the shoulders of well-meaning people — burdens which they themselves conveniently ignored.
Jesus did not abrogate the commandments.
Rather, he placed them in a new light. The person and example of Jesus is the new light, the true spirit of behaving. it is the new way by which we conduct ourselves as followers of him.
By following Jesus’ example, our worship is perfected in spirit and in truth.
The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 4, illustrates this new kind of worship of Jesus. It is the kind of worship you carry with you wherever you go because you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 3:16.
Worship is not confined to the temple (as the Jews maintained) or on the mountain (as the Samaritans maintained).
Worship is how you live.
This is not to say that community worship in church is not important. It is. But, worship in spirit and truth is worship from the heart that is turned on by the spirit and example of Jesus.
The new and authentic worship of Jesus takes place in the heart.
It comes about through a change of attitude. Jesus tells us we cannot put new wine into old wine skins, Luke 5:33–39.
The new wine is the gospel, and the old wine skins are the old attitudes or fixed prejudices that prevent the gospel from taking root within us.
By letting go of the old wine skins of anger, pride, envy, greed, and different forms of human selfishness we dispose ourselves to accept the new wine of the gospel.
The blessed beatitudes of humility, compassion, meekness, purity of heart, patience, peacefulness, and generosity — which Jesus gave us — give witness to authentic worship in spirit and in truth. They ensure that we do the right thing in the right way whether it be in thought, word, or deed. The human mind, as John Milton points out in "Paradise Lost," is a strange thing for it "can make a Heaven of Hell or a Hell of Heaven."
Jesus’ teachings and the manner in which he lived them illustrate how we can worship in both spirit and truth.
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, “What is This Thing Called Faith?” is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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