[3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B, March 8, 2015. / Exod 20:1-17 / Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11 / 1 Cor 1:22-25 / John 2:13-25]
IN today’s Gospel we find an all-action Jesus causing havoc in the temple. He is all fired up “with zeal for his Father’s house.” The temple had become a market place and “a den of thieves.” Jesus enters and single-handedly starts operation clean-up. He is on a one man mission. He makes a whip out of cord and begins to drive out all the animals there – the oxen, sheep and doves. Then he knocks over the money lenders’ tables, spilling their coins everywhere. “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a market place.” (John 2:16). Zeal for his Father’s house consumed him.
What is the significance of this act for us today? We are on the journey of Lent, a time of purification, a time to clean up our act. Jesus has the same passion for each one of us, for our following of him. He desires that our hearts be a house of prayer. He does not want our hearts and minds to be a market place.
Let us consider the animals present in the temple. Oxen don’t budge; they are typically animals that are very slow to respond, slow to react. If we are not careful our heart can become full of oxen. When we are so dominated by laziness, our will power is overrun by it. There are good things we can do but we lack the strength or desire. We become slow to react to the promptings of the Spirit. Our Lenten generosity becomes labored. Jesus, enter into my heart and drive out all the oxen.
And as for the doves well they are the symbol of peace but have you ever watched their behavior when they are together? They often fight each other! Sometimes we are the same, externally seemingly at peace but maybe with violent criticisms within us. As part of our spiritual preparation this Lent it is important to examine our hearts.
The third animals present in the temple are the sheep. Now they typically follow blindly. They lack personal initiative and creativity. In the first reading we have the Ten Commandments. Sometimes we can complain that the Church is full of commandments and rules. There are only 10 written on stone yet to drive a car, the highway code gives us thousands of rules and regulations! Are those rules of driving to hinder us or to help us? To help us! Maybe the problem is that I am driving too slowly in my following! We have a heart that is like a Ferrari engine, with so much capacity of love and self-giving. Yet if I drive this Ferrari in first gear of course I will be bored and will complain. But the real problem is that I am not adventurous enough! You should be going at 300 kilometers per hour in a Ferrari!
That heart you have is designed in the image and likeness of Christ. Don’t put limits on our loving! Do you put speed limits on your self-giving? I will help in this situation up to this point…I will give but only so much… these are self imposed rules and regulations, they do not come from Christ. Look at him hanging on the cross. Jesus did not put limits on his loving and does not want us to, either.
As St Paul reminds us in the today’s second reading, we preach a crucified Christ. A man who loved to the very end. He did not limit his loving! Looking at him on the cross will help us remember that we have a heart designed to love to the maximum! Jesus did not put speed limits on his love for others. So go the extra mile, or even the extra mile per hour in our self giving this Lent!
As for the moneylenders, well the love for money is often all too present in our world of today and in each one of our hearts. Like the boy in the big city who shouted “Help!” and no one noticed. Then he took a coin, dropped it on the floor and it hit the ground. The “ching” as the coin hit the ground stopped everyone in their tracks. Let us not become so sensitive to money that we become insensitive to the needs of others.
This Lent, like 2000 years ago, the temple of our hearts still needs a good clean out. The oxen, sheep and doves are still present in the temple of our hearts. Lord, come to us, save us. Help us to purify our hearts as we continue our Lenten journey to Jerusalem with you.