November 28 – Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week after Pentecost (11th of Luke) Luke 19:45-48
Cleanse Thy Church: Luke 19:45-48, especially vs. 46: “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you
have made it a den of thieves.” The Apostle Paul reminds us that we, who are the Church, are also “the temple of
the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall
be My People’” (2 Cor 6:16; Lv 26:12; Ez 37:27).
The admonition contained in this portion of Saint Luke’s gospel is directed at our own church
communities, for the identical judgment will be levied against us if we defame God’s temple. History affirms the
potential for such tragedy. Often, in order to advance the material prosperity of the institutional Church, Christian
communities reject the primary task of God’s people – to be a house of prayer.
The drive for material success can subtly, at times even blatantly, reduce Christ to an inconvenience that
needs reinterpretation. “The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people [who] sought to destroy
[Jesus]” (Lk 19:47) clearly know that the God we meet through prayer can, and will, disrupt our worldly goals.
Since God has chosen us as precious “living stones . . . being built up a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:4-5), it is
incumbent on us to protect the holy communities and jurisdictions of God’s Church. Let us never allow some
aspect of church life – be it a committee, a parish, a diocese, or whatever – to be tragically turned into a
materialistic program or an institution with earthly, measurable goals. Prayerful reflection on this portion of
Luke’s gospel reveals how the Lord Jesus would preserve us from such a pitfall.
First, we are to purify our hearts so that our worship services truly are love feasts of the Kingdom of God.
Only thus do we avoid becoming part of that den of thieves (Lk 19:46). Saint John Chrysostom advises us to “love
. . . then let us plant in our own souls, that we may stand with all the saints. For they all pleased God by their love
for their neighbor” (Homily 4 on First Thessalonians, NPNF First Series, vol. 13, p. 342).
If we allow Christ’s love to transform us, our Eucharistic gatherings will see us “standing in the presence
of Christ, and like Moses before God . . . covered with His glory” (Schmemann, For the Life of the World, p. 30).
Then we will joyfully exclaim, “Christ is among us: He is and He shall ever be!” Let there never be a secret
thought in our hearts that would shut out or effectively destroy the words of the Lord (cf. vs. 47).
The second way to keep the thieves of materialism from turning the living Temple of God into a profitable
program or a successful earthly institution is “for all the people [to be] very attentive to hear [Christ our God]”
(vs. 48). It is no accident that we are often called to “be attentive” during the Divine Liturgy. According to Saint
Gregory of Nyssa, the human mind, “as long as its current spreads itself in all directions over the pleasures of the
sense, has no power that is worth the naming of making its way toward the Real Good; but once call it back and
collect it upon itself, so that it may begin to move without scattering and wandering toward the activity which is
congenital and natural to it, it will find no obstacle in mounting to higher things, and in grasping realities” (“On
Virginity” 7, NPNF Second Series, vol. 5, p. 352).
Finally, lest we fall into delusion as a den for thieves, let us pray that Christ our God will come and drive
out (vs. 45) every inclination to embrace the world’s offers of quick success and growth through promotional
programs. Rather, let us sing: “Come let us worship and fall down before Christ. O Son of God, who art risen
from the dead, save us who sing unto Thee!” (Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).
O Lord, cleanse us by Thy cords of light and truth, driving out all base loves and making the glories of
the blameless life and a worship in spirit and in truth to shine forth in us. – Based on Saint Cyril of Alexandria’s
Homily 132 on Luke