Gospel—John 2 : 13 – 25
At first glance this Gospel could appear to be out of place for Lent. We began Lent with Jesus going out to the dessert to pray and tempted. Next was the beautiful account of the Transfiguration, next week we hear, “For God so loved the World….”, then the fifth Sunday, “unless the grain of wheat…”. This week we have the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple of money changers and merchants. He does this rather aggressively with a whip made of cords which demonstrates the extent of his zeal. Throughout the Gospels Jesus is not shy about asserting himself to the scribes and Pharisees, the crowds and even the disciples and apostles. There is a tendency to picture Jesus as a kind and gentle man who says or does nothing that would upset people, somewhat like the politician who is always campaigning. Jesus’ ministry was not one of working the campaign trail to get votes, his was of proclaiming the message that challenged the hearts and souls of those who listened.
Jesus confronts the people for using the temple not exclusively as the dwelling place of God, but also as a den of thieves. The people at the Temple questioned Jesus as to what authority he had to cleanse the temple of questionable commerce. Jesus responds by making the connection between the Temple of Jerusalem,( the home of the Ark of the Covenant,) and his body, (God incarnate.) “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Is Jesus speaking of the temple that took over fifty years to construct, or the temple of the body and blood of Jesus? Following the Resurrection we are told that the disciples remembered what Jesus said and this helped them to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The message of Jesus is about the new Kingdom that is being established here, the Kingdom of Heaven. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are invited to be Baptized and thus become citizens of this kingdom. Actually we become more than citizens, we become sons and daughters of God the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus, and we ourselves become temples of the Holy Spirit.
As we near the midway point of Lent we are reminded that through our Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are citizens of Heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit. Lent is a time for us to reflect on how we are living our faith and to repent of our sins. One approach is to reflect on what it means to be a citizen of Heaven and a temple of the Holy Spirit. What are my responsibilities as a citizen? Am I a faithful citizen? Do I seek the Kingdom of Heaven first in my life? How aware am I that I am a temple of the Holy Spirit? Do I recognize God’s presence within me? Do I recognize and respect God’s presence in others?
The various penitential practices of Lent are meant to help us to reflect on this. Whatever we might be doing or giving up for Lent, be mindful of who we are in God’s eyes and approach these practices as means of helping you become a better citizen of Heaven and a grander Temple of the Holy Spirit. This could mean facing the challenges that are part of the Gospel, even those areas of our lives where Jesus might make a whip of cords to purify us. Accept this purification by the Lord as His desire for us to be worthy citizens and reverent places of his presence.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.