While the faith isn't about rules, it would be a mistake to say rules aren't important.
I spend a good amount of time telling my children and my students that faith isn’t about rules. It’s about a relationship with God.
But it would be a mistake to say that rules are not important at all. Even our human relationships have rules: Don’t interrupt; don’t ignore; don’t come home late without calling.
This Sunday’s readings (the Third Sunday of Lent, Year B) are all about rules in our relationship with God.
Rule Number 1: The Temple is about worship and welcome.
Jesus in the Gospel drives the money-changers out of the Temple. Scholars say he had two problems with what they were doing: First, their high exchange rates took advantage of the piety of pilgrims. Second: The location of their tables crowded out the Gentiles from the one place they could share in Temple worship.
By driving out the money-changers, he is saying, emphatically: “The Temple is a place of worship above all” and “We must welcome others to the Temple.”
These rules touch on the Jewish people’s and his own deepest identity: The Temple is his Father’s house. It is his dwelling place on earth; it represents the covenant he has made with his people. Because of the Temple, the Jews are the chosen people, and because they are the chosen people, they come to the Temple.