From Meditations on the Gospel, The Last Week of the Saviour, Sixth Day.
The character of authority in the triumph of Jesus Christ. His zeal for the holiness of the temple (Ibid.).
Upon reaching Jerusalem Jesus went to the temple, as conquerors usually do, even among the idolaters. For there was a notion among men that it was necessary to return all glory to the divinity, and that to fall at His feet was the most heroic act among men. For this reason, Jesus was called Triumpher of Israel. (I Book of Kings. xv. 29)
Go then, oh Saviour! Take to Your Father, in His temple, the glory of the most beautiful triumph ever witnessed among men, and the symbol of all the others which You must accomplish in heaven, on earth, and in the lower regions.
Jesus Christ was to appear in the temple, not only to render supreme homage to God, but also as His Son: Like the son of the house (Hebr. iii. 6) in order to accomplish what His Father, Who sent Him, had commanded.
Thus, as soon as He entered, He viewed all things round about. (Mark xi. 11)
As it was late, Jesus retired for the day, but He returned the next day. Then, with authority, He drove out the buyers and the sellers. He overturned their desks, their tables, their chairs, and their merchandise. He scattered their money. Sparing no one whom He chased from the holy place, apparently with whip lashes and ropes, He did as He had done at other times, saying to them: Take these things hence, and make not the house of My Father a house of traffic. (John ii. 16) He spoke therefore, and acted like the son of the house, having full authority, and no one opposed Him.
At the same time, to prove His authority, Jesus performed His usual cures: And there came to Him the blind and the lame in the temple; and He healed them.
(Matt. xxi. 14) He confirmed that which He had done according to the Scripture: It is written, says He, My house is a house of prayer. (Isa. lvi. 7) This is what God had said through the mouth of Isaias, and Jesus added the reproach: And you, said He, have made it a den of thieves, as Jeremias had predicted. (Matt. xxi. 13; Jerem. vii. 11)
So it was that this oracle of David was accomplished: But I am appointed king by him over Sion his holy mountain, preaching his commandment. (Ps. ii. 6) There was seen in His temple, The Lord Whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, which Malachias had predicted. (Malach. iii. 1) Jesus Christ exercised there, in full right, all the authority of His Father: And He suffered not that any man should carry a vessel through the temple. (Mark xi. 16) nor that they use as a public road, a ground so holy. The Gospel does not state that He forbade it, but that He did not encourage it. That is to say, judging by the rest of His actions, that He repulsed them and drove them out. At any rate, He rebuked them with threatening words. Even if Jesus had merely commanded it verbally, it would have been an act of authority, but He acts; He overthrows; He strikes: This in itself is an act of zeal, and St. John and all the disciples applied the word of David to this action: The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up. (Ps. lxviii. 10; John ii. 17)
Zeal is fervor of the love of God too ardent to expect the help of others, nor does it confine itself to ordinary forms. Rather, it acts with a kind of excess, through absolute confidence in the power of God. We recognize this zeal in the action of the Saviour.
Notice these words: A den of thieves. All who bargain must tremble at them since they make them feel that, unless they take heed, bargaining can prove to be a tissue of lies, of cheating, and of theft.
Notice also that the things sold in the temple were oxen, sheep, doves–sacrificial offerings only. Nevertheless, Jesus expelled them all. It was not that these sales were evil in themselves, but rather because this was not the place to effect them. What would He do then about the discourses, irreverences, and other goings on in the temple?
Notice again that He speaks in particular to those who sell doves. Saints have understood this passage as one referring to simonists who sell the Holy Spirit and His graces, who enter through infamous dealings, into ecclesiastic and spiritual jobs, and who, in some fashion or other, bargain to obtain the favor of those who give these jobs. Remove, remove all that, says the Saviour.
The temple was going to perish, and Jesus who was going to predict it, as we shall see, was not unaware of it, and yet, with zeal and authority, He protected its right to be treated with reverence for as long as it stood. This was His way, therefore, of teaching Christians what they owe to new temples, of which the temple of Jerusalem was but a feeble and imperfect symbol, infinitely beneath the mysteries of Christianity, of which Jesus Christ is the foundation, and wherein His sacred body and His precious blood may be found. Let us tremble at the very sight and at the approach to this sanctuary.
But the temple of God is holy, which you are. (I Cor. iii. 17) Our soul is one with it; our bodies are one with it. Let. us respect this temple so sanctified and inseparable from ourselves. Let us not allow anything impure nor profane to enter there. Let us beware of making it serve in any unworthy traffic. Let us respect this temple, and the Holy Spirit who is in you. (I Cor. vi. 19)