Today’s first reading had bracketed text. You know when you see brackets in a reading the editors of that missal you’re reading consider the text within them either extraneous or embarrassing to modern audiences. The brackets in today’s case surrounded the text that detailed God’s commandments as related in Exodus. In the one about keeping the sabbath holy and doing no work, this little section was in brackets: “neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your slaves, men or women, nor your animals nor the alien living with you.” Updated versions used “servants” rather than slaves, but either one to today’s audience is as objectionable as the idea of setting a day aside for God. In fact such terminology gives many people a convenient excuse to dismiss everything in the Bible.
Of course if you consider the culture of the time of Exodus you know servants were things of great value to people, and the Holy Spirit worked through the writers of the Old Tetament, using this terminology so it would sink into the thick skulls of the people of that time. Not that today we’re much wiser than people of old. Look around, We still do stupid things. As wise as we think we are, we still need brackets around our Bible readings to tell us “don’t worry your pretty little minds about this stuff, go right to the important parts.”
Yet Paul says it all in today’s second reading, in his letter to the Corinthians: “God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” Paul offered proof that the people of Christ’s time weren’t mental giants either when he wrote: “While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the gentiles foolishness.”
In the Gospel, after Jesus threw the merchants out of the temple, the Jews asked him, ‘What proof can you show us that you should act like this?’ They needed a miraculous sign of Christ’s authority. Jesus said ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ He was telling them of the miracle to come, that he would die and rise from the dead. But they couldn’t digest that wisdom. They were thinking of the temple as a building, not a body. The people of today are just as deaf to God’s subtlety as the people of Jesus’ day.
Today if Jesus appeared in the middle of a mall on a Sunday morning, people would think the apparition was a new ad for sandals, not a sign that they were forgetting whose day it was. Today’s culture has put the significance of Sunday and Family in brackets. Our brackets tend to blind us to God’s wisdom–which is our folly.