Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (11: 11-26) in which Jesus encounters an unproductive Fig Tree, before going on to the Temple, where he clashed with the money changes and stall holders.
Fr Paul says we are nearing the end of Jesus’ mission in the Gospel of Mark, reaching its climactic confrontation with the Temple authorities, when Jesus finally shows what he is about.
The fig-tree is serving as an illustration: Israel was not bearing the fruit for which it was intended. First comes the certification that the fig-tree has no fruit; last comes the confirmation that it is withered for ever. Between these, right in the centre, comes the quotation from Isaiah, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples, but you have turned it into a bandits’ den.’
Judaism had lost its way: it was no longer a way of prayer and worship, even to Israel, let alone to all peoples. They had simply lost the plot. The Temple ‘worship’ had become a business of ritual, and perhaps none too honest, either.
The prophets had long been complaining ‘What I want is love not sacrifice’. We can be tempted to think that making the sacrifice and performing a set ritual is the way to worship the Lord. But, Fr Paul says, it so much more than that. The point of our worship more than anything is to express our love for God.