8th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, May 28
Ecclesiasticus 44:1. 9-13 / Mark 11:11-26
The memory of the good endures: Their glory will never be blotted out.
Africans have a far deeper appreciation of their ancestors and forefathers than we do. There is even a form of ancestor worship that has developed within some African tribes.At first, this created a big problem for African converts to Christianity, because Christians saw ancestor worship as a distortion of the truth. Now, however, the Church approaches the Africans' deep appreciation of ancestors as an opportunity. Instead of attacking the idea, the Church reshapes and utilizes it to teach the reasons for praying to the saints and praying for the dead.
How deeply do we appreciate those who have gone before us and all they have done for us? "He made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin." 2 Maccabees 12:46
The first reading praises the forefathers, as good people, known by name or unknown, whose lives were fruitful, and who therefore live on in the memory of people and of God.
The Gospel of today speaks of several things – the Temple as a place of worship and prayer, not of business, the need for faith, prayer, forgiveness. And we must bear fruit. Let us also drive out in our life what does not belong there so that we can serve God better.
To enhance the beauty of a picture, we choose a suitable frame. The parable of the fig tree is such a frame. The picture Jesus chose is that of the temple. On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus went first to the temple. The temple is still having daily sacrifices. The pilgrims whom Jesus had joined still came to the temple. But all this is only outward, the mind of the priests and the leaders is far from God. They do not want to honour God and serve him. Their piety and cult has for them only the meaning of furthering their national greatness, to satisfy their political aspirations, their material prosperity. It is this fig tree that has only the stem and the foliage but has lost its fruitfulness. For being unfruitful, it is condemned This is the meaning of the first part of the parable. This temple will be destroyed. Not a stone shall remain standing on another. The second part of the parable: Jesus cleanses the temple and predicts its destruction.
Each of us have our own ideas of what a church should be like. It may be about the design and the appearance, the colour of the paint, the furnishing, etc., right down to how the staff should dress and what the priests should be doing. And because each person can have a peculiar opinion about such matters, the Church has issued rules and guidelines to whatever imaginable point of contention so that there can be something to refer to and to follow. In the gospel, when Jesus went about driving out those who were selling and buying in the Temple, He was not just trying to impose His personal views on what the Temple should be like. He quoted this scripture passage: "My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. But you have turned it into a robbers' den."
So it seems that the Temple has become a religious commercial and business centre and the original purpose of it being a centre of prayer was eroded and diluted. What had happened to the Temple can also happen to any church. People can forget that they have entered the house of God and that they have come to pray to God and not to prey on others. And Jesus also gave two teachings about prayer:1. Everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. 2. When you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.
So to pray is to ask for forgiveness and also to forgive others. There can be no other opinions about that. Because that is what God wants of us.