Friday, March 06, 2015

3rd Sunday of Lent: "You Are God's Temple"

Today's Gospel reading narrates an incident of Jesus driving the money-changers out of the temple area.

"... In the temple precincts he came upon people engaged in selling oxen, sheep and doves, and others seated changing coins. He made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, sheep and oxen alike, and knocked over the money-changers tables, spilling their coins. He told those who were selling doves:"Get them out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a marketplace!" His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: "Zeal for your house consumes me."

It is a relief for some of us to see Jesus exhibit this kind of anger. He shows himself to be like us in every way. Sometimes we are tempted to think that Jesus was the out-of-worldly-character, who didn't possess the passions human beings have. But this incident shows us he was capable of strong emotions when the right circumstances called for them. His anger was justified because the temple, which was supposed to be the place of worship, was turned into a place of trade and commerce. It is worth remembering though that the presence of the money changers and sellers were needed because of the prescriptions of the Law of Moses for offering sacrifices. Roman money was the currency used by the people but it is forbidden for a Jew to use it for temple worship. So the presence of the money-changers was justified. There has to be somebody to trade this Roman currency into the temple money acceptable to the Jewish law. Specific animals were also needed for temple sacrifices. So the presence of sheep, oxen and doves was also justified because of the temple sacrifice rules and regulations. So what was Jesus upset about? My opinion is that Jesus went deeper into the heart of the matter. He had perceived that the spirit of worship and awe for the Temple, the House of God, was no longer truly present. People were caught up in the business of the day and had forgotten how it was to "stand in the presence of the living God."
It made me think of our own "temples." "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you? asked St. Paul. What do we have in our temples? What is the state of our temples? Will Jesus be provoked to anger in the same way when he enters it? Saint Teresa of Avila used to describe our soul as a castle with many mansions. She described sin and its vices to be the "vile creatures" wanting to enter this castle. She also said that if we truly appreciate the importance of the king who lives in the center of this castle, we would not be so easily swayed to sin.

St. Teresa says that the way to enter our castle or temple is through prayer and recollection. Self-knowledge is the fruit of this exercise. During this 3rd Sunday of Lent, let us make it our goal to enter in and see what we have in our "temple precincts." It may happen that we would need the whip made of cords to drive them out. Are there tables to be turned? Creatures to be driven out? "The Kingdom of God belongs to the violent." A little violence to ourselves might be necessary this Lent. Our daily deaths will be rewarded by the Easter Resurrection. "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" promised Jesus. A vice pulled out makes room for a virtue to flower.

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