“The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” (Ps 19:9) The biblical concept of law expressed in the Mosaic covenant reflects God’s knowledge of the real needs of humankind for order and balance in religion and in social interaction. The ten commandments are sometimes spoken of as ten words that form the basis of Israel’s unique faith in the ancient world, and to a great extent in contemporary society as well.
God’s law was aimed at forming a morally upright people who would walk in God’s way and reflect his will for all people. God knows what kind of beings he created, so the law he gives us is well suited to our nature. He placed his law within us. It is written on our hearts. (Jer 31:33)
In our Gospel reading we are called to reflect on one of our responsibilities toward the Lord. Respect for the Lord’s house as a place of worship says something about our whole attitude toward religion. In Jesus’ day the temple was thought of as the house of God, yet religious officials had allowed religion to become a business. Jesus found it necessary to return it to its rightful reverence.
Religious officials asked for a sign for the authority he displayed in doing that. As often, he moved their thinking far beyond their limited intellectual vision by giving them a sign that was enigmatic for them. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2:19) Perhaps it would be possible to excuse them for not knowing what they couldn’t have known. Perhaps, at the same time, they could have been expected to be more respectful and more open to listen to the speaker.
The sign they received was the sign of the resurrection. In John’s Gospel his signs have a theological meaning that is resolved in the realm of spirituality. Here Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body that would be raised up after death. The concept of the body as a temple was used in an earlier writing by Paul who spoke of the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 3:16) In our second reading Paul also refers to signs but redirects their emphasis to the crucified Christ who is the ultimate sign of the power and wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:24)
In the content of the Psalm response there are praises of God’s law which give us a safe way to direct our lives. God’s law is described by six synonyms. It is perfect, sure, right, clear, pure, and true. It is altogether righteous and enlightening to the eyes. “More to be desired than gold,” (Ps 19:11) it is a joy and not a burden. It gives us a sure standard in the face of conflicting moral values of our time, and directs us toward the Lord and eternal glory.
Let us end with the last verse of the Psalm. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19)
Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.