Archbishop's Message


I would like to begin with a beautiful story Fr. Sunny Jacob, SJ circulated on the WhatsApp recently. It’s worth listening to this story in silence as we enter Eastertide:

A Tale of Two Seas!
As you probably recall, the Dead Sea is really a Lake, not sea. It’s so high in salt content that the human body can float easily. You can almost lie down and read a book! The salt in the Dead Sea is as high as 35% - almost 10 times the normal ocean water. And all that saltiness has meant that there is no life at all in the Dead Sea. No fish. No vegetation. No sea animals. Nothing lives in the Dead Sea. And hence the name: Dead Sea.
The other sea is the Sea of Galilee. It turns out that the Sea of Galilee is just north of the Dead Sea. Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea receive their water from the River Jordan. And yet, they are very, very different.
Unlike the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee is pretty, resplendent with rich, colourful marine life. There are lots of plants, and lots of fish too. In fact, the Sea of Galilee is home to over twenty different types of fishes.
Same region, same source of water, and yet while one sea is full of life, the other is dead. How come?
Here’s apparently why. The River Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee and then flows out. The water simply passes through the Sea of Galilee in and then out – and that keeps the sea healthy and vibrant, teeming with marine life.
But the Dead Sea is so far below the mean sea level, that it has no outlet. The water flows in from the River Jordan, but does not flow out. There are no outlet streams. It is estimated that over 7 million tons of water evaporate from the Dead Sea every day, leaving it salty. It is too full of minerals and unfit for any marine life.
The Dead Sea takes water from the River Jordan, and holds it. It does not share it.
Result? No life at all.
Think about it.
Reflection Life is not just about getting. It’s about giving. We all need to be a bit like the Sea of Galilee. We are fortunate to get wealth, knowledge, love and respect. But if we don’t learn o give, we could all end up like the Dead Sea.
The love and the respect, the wealth and the knowledge could all evaporate, like the water in the Dead Sea.
Good idea to make sure that in the sea of your own life, you have outlets; many outlets. For love and wealth – and everything else that you get in your life, make sure you just don’t get, you give too.
Open the taps. And you’ll open the floodgates to happiness. Make that a habit to share and experience life…
Experience the magic of sharing…!
However, the magic of sharing will never take place in our life if our hearts are not clean and there are barriers between us and God – the barriers of greed, possessiveness, selfishness, pride, jealousy, envy, hatred, resentment etc. all of which are like ‘idols’ that we worship thus contravening the first commandment of God. These are ‘false gods’ that desecrate the temple of God destroying its holiness. Jesus tells the Pharisees and the scribes that it is not God who will destroy the temple but their own wickedness whereby they will bring ruin upon themselves “because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Lk. 19: 44). This was the warning of the prophets especially Jeremiah and recorded in 2 Chronicles 36 (1st Reading of the 4th Sunday of Lent).
It is not without reason that all the four gospels give importance to the episode of the ‘cleansing of the temple’ and St. John places it at the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus when Jesus is visiting Jerusalem for the Passover Feast (cf. Jn. 2:13-22 – Gospel of 3rd Sunday of Lent) ). This act of Our Lord represents the cleansing of the human heart and our re-birth in the Holy Spirit through our sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ in which the old sacrifices of the Law of Moses and all the ritual prescriptions have been totally supplanted, rather fulfilled by the one and only Law i.e. the law of self-sacrificing love as Christ has taught and lived in his life. To those who come to question his authority Jesus responds, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 2: 19). This is an obvious reference to his death and resurrection. At his trial the words of Jesus are twisted and produced as an evidence against him to charge him for treason: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands’” (Mk. 14:58). Yet the false accusation was very prophetic. Jesus, in his resurrection, indeed has built a new temple not made with hands and that temple is himself as our Risen Lord and in him the Church as the body of the Risen Lord enlightened by the Holy Spirit. The one and only worship in this temple is DIVINE LOVE eternally embodied in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus and his Resurrection. It is God’s victory over sin and death in which we all participate through our faith in Jesus Christ. Hence the Church made of living stones does not require temples made of stone, however artistically beautiful and marvelously splendid they may be. St. Paul has clearly enunciated this truth: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22). Our Lord had already proclaimed this truth in his discourse with the Samaritan woman: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (Jn. 4:21-23).
How did the ‘house of prayer’ become a ‘den of robbers’ (cf. Mt 21: 13)? Because the temple authorities had allowed commerce to flourish inside the temple precincts in the vast ‘court of the gentiles’ where currencies were exchanged for the temple currency (half-shekel) to be paid as temple tax and animals were sold for the temple sacrifices – and both at a huge mark up to fill up the pockets of the authorities. This ‘corruption’ was blatantly against the Law and the Prophets but nobody had the guts to question the authorities; only Jesus could with the authority he received from the Father, and he was ready to pay the price for it which followed very soon. It was injustice, exploitation and oppression that were going on inside the temple and all in the name of God! God certainly wouldn’t want such a temple for himself!
In stark contrast to the desecration of the temple through malpractices the Gospel tells us that the infinite healing love and mercy of God were flowing through Jesus in the court of the gentiles to heal the blind and the lame; and the children were crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David” to which the authorities strongly objected (cf. Mat. 21: 14-16). But the poor recognized the Messiah who was proclaiming the Kingdom of God and the true meaning of the Covenant.
Finally, I would like to underline that each one of us is the temple of the Holy Spirit, i.e. of the Holy Trinity, the truth which St. Paul emphasizes: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you... For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1Cor. 3: 16-17).
If I am the temple of God I cannot allow it to be desecrated – that is, used for a profane purpose.
“So now you have to sit quietly and examine what kind of commerce is going on in your holy temple. Is it totally clean? Who are the traders sitting there and defiling the temple? Are you providing shelter to any exploitation? It may be a deep rooted trauma caused in childhood that still resides there exploiting you and your future; it may be a hurt that was caused by someone long ago that is not healed and reconciled; it may be a laziness that does not allow you to do what you want to do; it may be something else. Examine it with the help of Jesus and then allow him to overturn the tables and set the doves free. Let him clean the temple so that you are prepared to meet him” [George Ponodath, S.J., Cave of Plenty: A Retreat Manual (Mumbai, St. Paul’s, 2019), pp. 104-105].

Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi