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Preparing Our Sacred Spaces – Jesuits in Britain

December 3, 2019

1 Mc 4:36-37, 52-59

Then Judas and his brothers said, ‘See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.’ So all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.

Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt-offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshipped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. 

So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt-offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving-offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.

Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Preparing our own sacred spaces

The Maccabean Revolt by the Hasmoneans, remembered today in the Festival of Hanukkah, was an effort by Jewish patriots to reclaim their independence from the two branches of the former Greek Empire of Alexander the Great. Antiochus IV had more than desecrated the Temple, he had massacred thousands of Jews before being driven out of the land.  This war was also a civil war fought between Hellenized Jews and traditionalists. Now in control, the Maccabean’s set out to purify and rededicate their sacred space. They sought to put the horror of war behind them and create a new beginning, celebrating joy and gladness.

Jesus in today’s Gospel (Lk 19: 45-48) confronts the moneychangers and seeks to drive them out of the Temple.  At this point in history, it was the Romans who were masters of the Jewish State, and Romanized Jews cheated the people with their financial manipulations.  The tensions in the city were high, many seeking to get along in peace with Caesar’s power, while others seeking independence and religious self-determination.  

Jesus too set out to purify and rededicated their sacred space – though Jesus’s message was not welcomed by the Jewish traditionalists either.  What is the meaning of “clean” and “unclean”? Jesus had very radical ideas on this, even though he too set about cleansing. How can we make ready our own sacred space?  

Fred O’Connor is an alumnus of Loyola Academyand College of the Holy Cross and is a member of the JFAN Advisory Board in Chicago.  He works as a financial advisor living in Evanston, IL.

Prayer

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

—Prayer after the Our Father in Mass

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