Usually we think of Jesus as kind, compassionate, merciful, and peaceful. Today’s Gospel lays out for us a radically different view. He is very angry and violent, making a whip out of cords, driving out those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves for sacrifices along with their animals, and the money changers, turning over their tables and scattering their coins. The Jews, especially their leaders, were as shocked as we are by Jesus’ actions and demanded by what reason he did this. The disciples later remembered a quote from Scripture: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” He then spoke of the temple of his body: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
We are all God’s temples, but we have at times cluttered it up. Sometimes it is through laziness, just as we sometimes scatter clothes, shoes, books, paper, drinking glasses, used plates, and other things around our rooms – and get used to their being there. We allow it to get dusty through our self-absorption, forgetting that we have a treasure within us that should shine brilliantly.
We occasionally try to reduce the clutter and sweep out the dirt and dust especially during Lent. But if we are really honest, we don’t try too hard because we mostly like our lives just the way they are. We like to be fashionable, to enjoy fine food and drink, pizza, cheeseburgers, Big Mac’s and Whoppers, and to escape once in a while on vacation.
Now there’s nothing wrong with those things unless they become the and the only highlights of our lives.
Yes, we wish we could love better, be more kind and generous, have more patience and be more compassionate. However, original sin gets in the way. Only we don’t call it original sin. Instead we say we don’t have the will power or the energy to change so we leave things as they are, getting so used to it that don’t even notice that it is disfiguring the temple within us. True story: One time I was in a rectory that I haven’t been in over 12 years. I noticed a crack in the ceiling that went from one side of the ceiling to the other. I was worried the whole ceiling and the 2nd floor would collapse on me. I asked about it, and the priest living there said: “What crack?” It had started off small, barely noticeable. He ignored it and then it grew. Same thing in our spiritual temple.
Today, we invite Jesus in to look around our temple; see what’s there that doesn’t belong, and drive it out so that it becomes a welcome place for God and prayer.
3rd Sunday of Lent, B18