November 18, 2011 - Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Did you notice the parallels between our two readings today? The Maccabees go up to the temple and cleanse it. Jesus goes up to the temple and cleanses it. The Maccabees purified it after a foreign power had come in and turned the temple into a pagan temple. Jesus purified it after the Jewish government themselves chose to let money changers and vendors take over. The Maccabees gathered the whole people together in the temple to praise God and celebrate the dedication of the altar. Jesus gathered the whole people together in the temple because he taught there every day and they hung on his words.

Our first reading today is the story of Hanukkah, which celebrates the cleansing of the temple by the Maccabees. Our Gospel is the story of the new Hanukkah. As Easter is the new Passover, and Sunday is the new Sabbath, and Pentecost is the new Pentecost, so the cleansing of the temple by Jesus is the new Hanukkah. Today, almost 2200 years after the cleansing of the temple, the Jewish people still celebrate Hanukkah; they celebrate how God rescued them from their persecutors and restored to them the ability to worship him as he commanded. We do not celebrate a particular feast day for the cleansing of the temple, but we do celebrate, in the person of Jesus Christ, the power of God to save us. Just as he rescued the Jewish nation from the persecution of the Greeks, so he rescued the whole world from the persecution of Satan. Just as he restored the true worship to his temple, so also he taught us the true sacrifice, the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

Hanukkah almost always falls during Advent each year. How much more appropriate it would be if Christians, instead of celebrating Christmas before Christmas, would celebrate Hanukkah, remembering how our Lord came to cleanse the temple and how he is coming again to cleanse the whole world. Indeed, we Catholics do this and call it Advent. We light an Advent wreath instead of a menorah but the meaning is the same: we praise the God who saves his people, who rules over all. As Hanukkah celebrates the cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem, Advent is the coming of Jesus to cleanse us, the temple of the Holy Spirit. As with every aspect of religion, the meaning, while remaining fundamentally the same, is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.