Friday, 5/27/16 – My House Shall Be a House of Prayer

imageToday’s gospel said that Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling their wares, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”

When you read those words, what picture came to mind?  In your mind’s eye did you see a large temple filled with small booths selling religious items?  Did you agree with Jesus, that God’s house should be a house of prayer?  That he had a right to get angry with the peddlers selling their wares in the temple?  After all, the temple was a holy place. However, do you think this story is just an event that occurred in the past?  

Thankfully, most of the gift shops in our shrines and parishes today are not located in our worship space, but the marketplace does still creep into the church in other little ways.  Often times, the narthex by the front door has people waiting for us when we arrive or leave at Mass, selling items for fundraisers in the church.  This is sometimes offensive to the parishioners that attend Mass though.  They feel like they can’t arrive or leave the church in peace, and the sacredness of their worship space has been violated.  The church is for prayer and worship and nothing should detract their attention from this.

Sometimes parishioners even quit attending Mass because every single time they went to church, people were hitting them up for more money.  Perhaps they were on a fixed income, or struggling as a single parent supporting a family, or are trying to pay off a large medical bill.  They are responsible people who are just trying to pay off their debts.  Walking past numerous tables selling things in the narthex, or being constantly asked to contribute to a second collection or other worthwhile charity at church, made them feel guilty that they couldn’t afford to contribute to it.  They felt like they couldn’t just go to church and worship the Lord without feeling pressured to give more money.

It is hard because the church and it’s ministries need money in order to exist and operate – but it can sometimes send the wrong impression to people if it gets out of hand.

A far better thing would be to build less costly churches so there would be some extra money for the charitable work that also needs to be done in a community.  However, most of our churches were built generations ago and it does cost a lot of money to maintain and repair the older buildings.  Many of our churches have high ceilings too, that cost a lot to heat and cool.  Like it or not though, it does cost money for the church to even exist.

However, many non-Catholics also view the Catholic church’s elaborate buildings, artwork, priest’s vestments, etc. as “pomp and circumstance”.  They think that the Catholic church is very wealthy and wonder why we don’t do more charitable work with our money, rather than spend our funds on such fancy buildings?

They have a point.  Parishioners only have so much expendable income.   It does make you wonder why the buildings can’t be less costly and less elaborate, so our church could do more for the poor?

I realize today’s gospel may not be a very upbeat, cheerful topic, but Jesus addressed it anyway, and it does still need to be addressed in our modern times too.

My mother and father in law did not have a strong faith in God to begin with.  Eventually, the last straw for them was when they felt like they were continually being “hit up” for money every single time they went to Mass.  This eventually caused them to quit attending Mass, because it seemed to be more about money than faith.  The last 20 years of their life they never went to church again.

This is probably why Jesus got angry in today’s gospel.  Church is supposed to be about worshipping God, not making money.  The salvation of souls are at stake.  People should be focused on giving their respects to God and renewing their relationship with Him during their time in prayer at Mass.

 

About the Author

Welcome to A Catholic Moment! My name is Laura Kazlas and I'm the creator and founder of A Catholic Moment. Catholics read a lot of different things on the internet these days, but this website is a place for Catholics to read, reflect, and discuss the daily readings for Mass. Our website is run entirely by a group of volunteer writers who have a genuine love for the scriptures that we have for Mass each day. I was personally raised by atheists, but came to believe in God and was baptized because of the words in sacred scripture. I later became a Catholic because of the Mass. The first time my husband took me to Mass, I thought it was the most holy, beautiful sense of worshiping God that I had ever experienced. I still do. My husband John and I have been married for 30 years. We have a son, a daughter, two granddaughters, and a cat. I currently serve as the coordinator of Catholic prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Portland Oregon, in the USA.

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20 Comments

  1. Interesting sharing of the gospel today. From my view, could it be that Jesus wants us to be still in prayer and reverent and not “trade” with GOD when we come to a holy place of worship?

  2. I do have a problem of understanding Jesus’ cursing the fig tree…He was completely human as he entered the temple in Nazareth late in the day and he went away to Bethany . He was hungry and looking for fig in the wrong season. He was upset and cursed the tree……

    Is this incident in Jesus’s life meant to teach us the day to day suffering of human beings and how to seek God’s help? It is rather confusing..Please enlighten me.

  3. Thank you for your thoughts. Yes I am in a low income position and had to decline spending any more each week than the 5% or 10 % tithe I am able to give. And happy to give. For some people it really is a case of every penny is accounted for and there is no surpless each month. I count my parish well blessed to meet for mass in a hall of our local united reform church as we could no longer keep a huge church building going. It has made us a much stronger community in my view.

  4. Look at world today everybody has great love for that we are all blind,our minds and heart should be filled with love and faith but they filled with evil of wealth

    ,

  5. Laura I agree with your premise but disagree with your conclusion. The Catholic Church does more, gives more, helps more people than all the other denominations combined by a wide margin. The reasons people don’t come to Mass has other deeper reasons than money. I speak first person I did not attend Mass for years and made a myriad of reasons to justify my choice. In the final analysis I realized I was simply running away from the light.

  6. I’m disappointed on the focus of today’s reflection. The Catholic Church feeds the hungry, clothes the poor, cares for orphans, and too many other works of mercy to mention. Is the church the place to sell wares before and after mass? No. I concur. However, I won’t spend time responding to the specifics of this reflection. Instead, I’d like to ponder the Gospel reading, which also had a negative tone to it.

    Jesus said whoever believes in his heart that his prayers will be answered, it will be done. If so, why did Jesus not bless the fig tree to produce out of harvest time? Why did he not pray for the money changers to experience a change of heart and leave the temple or abandon their selling? Wouldn’t God have done both things for him?

    Why was Jesus so angry that day? He turned over tables. He cursed a tree. Was this account merely to show his human side? Shouldn’t Jesus have put his trust in his father and not tried to control both situations?

    In Peter we read that our love should be intense for one another. Our words and our actions should come from God. Yet Jesus didn’t react to either the fig tree or the money changers with love.

    Today’s Gospel reading is out of character for Jesus and is difficult for me to decipher. Instead, I’ll focus on Peter. I’ll try to live today with intense love. I’ll refrain from complaining. I’ll use the incredible gifts that God has blessed me with to serve others today.

    I love this blog and am grateful for its content. I was angry when I read the reflection today as I was looking for answers and felt the focus was trite. But you made me grab a sheet of paper and re-read the Gospel and Peter several times. You made me jot down my thoughts and my questions and made me address my confusion. In the end, you made me focus on the message of love and source of all that is good about me – God. ❤️

  7. Hey Luara,

    Ah, the reasons why not to go to church. I got a million of them. And of the ones that go to church, how many go out of obligation and not out of love?

    We could spends hours talking about this reading, but ultimately it’s about focusing on God.

    Mark

  8. Hello , and thanks for sharing but I also disagree strongly ,
    The meaning of Jesus throwing out the temple peddlers was explained in mass at EWTN , this morning .
    The peddlers were taking advantage of the people that would bring sacrifices , telling them their lambs or doves etc were blemished and unworthy there fore would sell them at much higher cost supposed unblemished animals .
    It all made perfect sense to me , this was his Fathers house ( I would get sngry too ,
    Jesus human side ,
    I pray that all those who have abandoned our mother church for reasons as this can reslize that in this world we are all human Snd therefore capable of human downfalls including our beloved church Christ founded and is still here today after so many have attempted at bringing her down .
    Thanking you for all your time and countless meditations that have always inspired me .

  9. Thank you for honestly expressing what many feel. The grounds, the community centers, the support services in many cases have become corporate in appearance and function. Yours is a good reminder for us. You will get pushback from those who object to a deeper, more focused lookback.

  10. The catholic church scores abysmally poor in caring for her members. No gain saying the fact. Our major concern is expensive physical structures as against spirituality. Most of our priests do not have anything to with the poor among us. The parishioners they visit and share phone numbers with are the rich ones. That’s why catholic is a fertile ground for the protestants/pentecostals to populate their new found churches.
    I suggest that it is time the catholic church should look inward to the welfare of parishioners than edifices. God lives in our hearths not in those structures no mather how big or beatifull. Especially in Africa the of money (second collection, project sunday etc) has driven many out the church yet our leaders are indifferent.

  11. Today’s reflection leaves a certain emptiness.
    I disagree on todays pattern of reflection on money for the church . I live in a country where our early church was built by the missionaries. We found a beautiful church where people had donated money and vehicles to help the church run. When the missionaries left it was a shock to be told that we have to provide for the running of the church including taking care of our priests.
    We did it eventually, and it dawned on us how much love other people had to sacrifice their time and money for the building and running of the church. To me that is in order because the Christians in my church these days contribute food to feed and offers clothing and other material help to the less advantaged.
    My take on this is ; All we have belongs to God, we are only His stewards. His place of worship should be
    the best because He deserves the best.

  12. I like what you said, “His place of worship should be the best, because He deserves the best.” I think that is an excellent thought for the day.

  13. Our modern church structures do seem to have more of a colder, more corporate feel. Our last parish built a large new church structure like that. We missed the warmth, closeness and welcoming feel of our old building though.

  14. The thoughts and attitudes in today’s reflection, are from other people and not necessarily my own. My mother and father in law left the church because of the people selling things in the narthex and those who were constantly asking them for more money. It was similar to the situation in Jesus’s time. I just presented an outsider’s point of view.

  15. Tammy, that is the reason this website was created. Catholics don’t think about, or talk about the scriptures on the internet very much. Jesus got angry twice in today’s gospel and said and did some very negative things that were out of character for him. That is definitely a lot of food for thought.

  16. Hi Sanjeevi, In response to your question… Jesus cursed the fig tree and in another fit of anger, drove the money changers out of the temple in today’s gospel. I think the readings show that anger is sometimes justified. We shouldn’t have so much guilt over our own anger, because anger isn’t always a sin. In both instances Jesus was upset because he expected one thing (something good) but what he actually saw turned out to be something bad. These are negative events, but sometimes anger is justified.

  17. The sellers in the temple and the barren fig tree had something in common: both were about outward appearance instead of bearing fruits, which made Jesus angry. Thus the destruction of both by Jesus.

    The beauty and holiness of our Cathedrals and churches help us to meditate on God; I do not like items being sold in the narthex or second collections either, which thankfully our priest limits severely as this is a distraction from the Mass. However, the Catholic church (which is us, ultimately) is a major contributor to helping the poor in my community which makes me very proud to be Catholic. The older church buildings were built sacrificially by those who have gone before us; it is our obligation and honor to to maintain them.

  18. Hi Laura,

    Thank you for your reply. The priest was also of the same opinion that Jesus was upset and lost his cool and that sometimes anger could be righteous. I jut do not wish to go further exploring Jesus’s mind. There are quite a few blind spots in the Bible which I wouldn’t dare attempt to analyze like most of the protestant groups do. It is the simple faith and undiminishing love of Christ is what matters.

  19. Laura, I agree with you that the demands for money in churches, not the Catholic church alone, has become the norm today. The fact is that if you do not have extra than your tithe to contribute to the church, it is still all right. There are some who can’t give anything but they still look forward to fellowshipping with others and hearing the word of Gods. No one is compelled to give anything. There are some who complained about the demands of money in Catholic churches who live extravagant lavish lifestyles, but to donate to the church is a pain or annoying. The House of God is to be adorned. If a church is growing, there is definitely the need for expansion. I belong to a parish where we have eight masses every weekend, and in most of the masses, people stand by the aisles because the pews are packed full. In this case, what should the church do?

    The Catholic church has done so much for the world than any other denomination. I am a Catholic convert and I was moved by Catholic’s outreach to people. That one decision to become a Catholic has made me who I am today and I don’t regret it one bit. Cradle Catholics who have never been to other churches do not appreciate what they have. I have been to churches where prayers are based on how much you give. This is done openly and it looks like an auction, the parishioners trying to outdo each other in getting the longest or best prayer.

    I remembered very clearly how people invested time in the church trying to make the church beautiful in Africa. It was a blessing and joy to be in that group. Ever since the missionary left, that love to do for the church started crumbling. The pews are dirty, dusty, unkept, no improvement is made in the church. The parishioners allow the priests to be the custodians of the collections which most of them use as they want not asking for the parishioners’s input. I am appalled and disheartened when I go to Catholic churches in Africa. Because priests in Africa don’t have strict accountability like the ones in United States and other countries most young men go into priesthood, not necessary for the right cause but for a better life which is difficult to attain in Africa except if you, your relative, or friend is in politics.

    In closing, for those who think the Catholic is not doing much, they should ask themselves what they have done for the church.

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