Cleansing Our Temple
Rev. Robert J. Wagner
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he has said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.
As each of the four Gospel evangelists provide an account of Jesus Christ cleansing the Temple, we recognize that it is a pivotal event in His ministerial life. Johnís description provides a dramatic scene, as Jesus made a whip and drove out the money changers, those selling animals to be sacrificed, and even the animals themselves. Amid the turmoil, as Our Lord overturned tables, He shouted that His Fatherís house should not be ďa house of trade.Ē
This cleansing occurred during Passover, when the Temple was crowded with pilgrims from Israel and beyond. Therefore, we can imagine the great chaos. With His actions, Jesus was disrupting and even destroying the system that had been set in place for these many travelers to pay the temple tax and purchase animals for sacrifice.
The reason that Jesus cleansed the Temple was because the activity there was focused not on worship, but instead on worldly things. The Temple was a holy place, a pilgrimage site where the Israelites went to pray and make sacrifices to God. However, even the activity related to this worship, that is, the selling of animals for sacrifice, was distracting from the worship itself. The busy-ness and cacophony of the money changers dealing with foreign coins and vendors exchanging animals for money was not drawing pilgrims closer to God, but instead keeping them from the proper reverence required of a place where the Israelites knew that the Most High God dwelled.
By chasing everyone and everything from the Temple area, Jesus was clearing out all that distracted from reverence for God and set back in order the practice of worship.
During the season of Lent, we might consider how we might do the same. What in our lives is distracting us from our proper worship of the Lord?
Part of our daily worship should be time for prayer. It is fitting during Lent to fast from an activity such as time spent on social media or watching television to make more time for prayer. In this way, we turn our eyes toward the Lord and sanctify our daily routine.
We call Sunday the Lordís Day, but for many of us this, too, is a day in need of some cleansing and reorganizing. While many of us try to squeeze in Mass between many other activities each Sunday, we are called to make the celebration of the Eucharist the cornerstone around which other events should be planned. It is the most important activity in which we and our families will participate each week, so we should treat our Sunday schedule as such. We must also consider how we keep holy the rest of our Sundays, which can easily get cluttered with unnecessary work and activities that pull us away from our families and our prayers. Perhaps we can consider sanctifying our Sundays with reading Scripture or making a pilgrimage to a holy site to pray. In this way, we can turn our eyes toward the Lord and truly call it the Lordís Day.
Finally, this Lent we can look at our practices of worship, such as our individual prayer and even our routine for Sunday Mass. How is the Lord calling us to disrupt our normal routine and make the changes that lead to an experience that is less cluttered and more focused on God? This may mean arriving at Mass early, or taking some time before our daily prayer to quiet ourselves and be reminded that we are in the presence of God and about to encounter Him. We may also consider spending some quiet time after Mass in order to reflect on the readings, the homily, or the intimate encounter we just shared with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
How is the Lord asking us to make extra efforts and to rearrange our schedules in order to cleanse our lives of worship? This Lent, may we rely on Christís grace to overturn the distractions in our lives and turn more fully toward him in worship.
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