While we were there touring the site, we saw religious extremists from the different religions. Our guide actually pointed them out to us, and stopped the tour a few times just to monitor them. There was definite tension. It wasn't violent like it's been there at that site in past days, but aggressive. The temple area is actually the focal point of the conflict in Israel and the religious tension there.
The temple is the focal point of tonight's readings as we celebrate a feast of a major Christian church, the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. This was the mother church of Christendom before St. Peter's. The temple was revered so much by Jews because it was the House of God on earth. It's where they experienced the presence of God, especially the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. They worshipped God and paid Him homage in the temple. They still do it today at the only remaining remnant of the temple, the Western Wall. We prayed at the wall - also known as the Wailing Wall - while we were there. We hear in the first reading that everything flows from the temple - vast amounts of water and fruitfulness.
A transition regarding the temple is made in today's Gospel. This is a popular Gospel account, though, for other reasons. People cite this often to show that even Jesus got angry (righteous anger). This is true, but is also reveals his intense love and respect for the temple..."zeal for your house consumes me". The transition that is made here is that the temple goes from being a building to a person, Jesus Christ. He talks about rebuilding the temple. Those who are there think he is referring to the enormous building. "But he was speaking about the temple of his body". He was referring to himself as the new temple!
He is the presence of God on earth. He is the new Ark of the Covenant...the new Holy of Holies. And why is this transition to a new temple tied in with the resurrection? Because the resurrection is the greatest manifestation of his divinity. When he rose from the dead, the disciples recognized His divinity. And, then they “remembered that he had said this”, that He was the new temple. His risen body is the new temple, the presence of God on earth. Just as the Jews worshipped God in the temple, we worship Jesus in his risen body, primarily the Eucharist. We pay him homage and respect when we come before his Eucharistic body, genuflecting and kneeling in his presence. The seeds of respecting and reverencing the presence of God on earth were planted in the Old Testament, and were fulfilled in the New Testament in Jesus Christ.