The First Reading (Exodus 20:1-17) is one of the two versions of the Decalogue. (The other is Deut 5:6-21). The Ten Commandments are a map of life for a people who enjoy a special relationship with God. They were to be seen as a gift, not a burden. Jesus brought in a new and more exacting law – the law of love. He effectively summed up the commandments in two: love of God and love of neighbour.
In the Second Reading ( 1 Cor 1:22-25) Paul preaches a crucified Christ. To some the idea made no sense. To others it was a sign of the wisdom and power of God. The cross is power (dynamis, the word frequently used for “miracle” and corresponding to “sign”) and wisdom. But it is a paradoxical kind of power and wisdom—a foolishness that is wiser than human beings, and a weakness that is stronger than human beings. Only believers can penetrate the wisdom behind the folly, and the power behind the weakness of the cross. For all unbelievers, the message of the cross remains a scandal (for Jews) and a folly (for Greeks).
In the Gospel (John 2:13-25) Jesus’ confronting action in cleansing the temple was a protest against the commercialisation of religion and the desecration of the Temple. But it went deeper. It was a symbolic action, in the fashion of an Old Testament prophet (see Jer 7:11; Mal 3.1), through which he passed judgement on the Jewish sacrificial system. He was declaring that temple worship, with its ritual and animal sacrifices, was becoming irrelevant and could do nothing to bring people to God.
He was also protesting at the way religion had become narrow, nationalistic, and exclusive. Israel had failed to fulfil her universal mission to humankind. It was God’s intention that the Temple should be a house of prayer `for all nations’ and Israel be a light to all nations.