“Violence never serves humanity – it only dehumanises.” This was the Pope’s message at Sunday’s Angelus address, as he commented upon the Gospel passage of the Purification of the Temple in front of several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope commented on today’s reading from the Gospel of St. John which recounts how Jesus drove animal sellers and money changers from the Temple, arousing great wonder among His disciples and the people. “How must we interpret this gesture?” the Pope asked. “First of all we must note that it did not cause any reaction from the guardians of public order, because it was seen as a typically prophetical act. Prophets, in fact, in the name of God often denounced abuses, sometimes with symbolic gestures. If anything, the problem was their authority. That is why the Jews asked Jesus ‘what sign can you show us for doing this?’; in other words, show us that you are truly acting in God’s name.
“The cleansing of the Temple has also been interpreted as a political-revolutionary gesture”, the Holy Father added, “with Jesus being seen as part of the Zealots movement. The Zealots were, indeed, ‘zealous’ for the law of God and ready to use violence to ensure it was respected. In Jesus’ time they were awaiting a Messiah who would free Israel from Roman rule. But Jesus disappointed that hope, causing some disciples to abandon Him, while Judas Iscariot even betrayed Him. The truth is that it is impossible to interpret Jesus as violent. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God. It is an instrument of the Antichrist. Violence never serves man, but dehumanises him”.
“The words Jesus used while accomplishing His gesture – ‘Take these things our of here!Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ – reminded His disciples of the words of the Psalm: ‘It is zeal for your house that has consumed me’. The Psalm is a cry for help in a situation of extreme danger caused by the hatred of enemies, which is what Jesus would experience in His passion. Zeal for the Father and His house would take Him to the cross. His is the zeal of the love which pays in person, not that which seeks to serve God through violence. Indeed, the ‘sign’ Jesus would give as proof of His authority would be His death and resurrection. ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up’, which St. John glosses with the words: ‘he was speaking of the temple of his body’. At Easter Jesus inaugurated a new cult: the cult of love, and a new temple: Himself, the risen Christ, through Whom all believers can adore God the Father ‘in spirit and truth'”.
“The Holy Spirit began to build this temple in the Virgin’s womb”, Benedict XVI concluded. “Through her intercession let us pray that each Christian may become a living stone in this spiritual building”.
Following the Marian prayer the Pope launched an appeal for the people of Madagascar who have been suffering the devastating effects of tropical storms, the most recent of which left at least seventy dead and many missing, as well as causing material damage affecting 70,000 people.
“My thoughts go”, he said, “to the dear people of Madagascar who have recently been struck by violent natural calamities that caused serious damage to people, infrastructures and crops. While giving assurances of my prayers for the victims and for their sorely tried families, I encourage the international community to send aid”.