Is anyone else here super pumped that it is March? I have been loving the sun and warm-er weather this week! Hopefully, this means we have moved beyond the bitter cold! I also am super pumped for March Madness; although I need to get over MSU’s loss yesterday evening… But March is also known as a time for Spring cleaning… and something like that is happening in our Gospel: Jesus Purifies the Temple.
What was the significance of the temple for ancient Judaism? The shortest answer is that it was everything. It was the center of culture. It was the place where the religious, political and economic spheres of life met. But it was more than that. It was also the place where heaven and earth met. Why? Because it was the house of God. Here was the purpose of the temple: it was supposed to be the place where people came to pray and encounter God.
In our Gospel today, we hear about a moment when Jesus becomes angry. Why does Jesus need to cleanse the temple?
The reason for this was that the temple had become corrupted. It no longer was fulfilling its purpose. The Temple was no longer a place to experience God. In a sense, it had become everything else in culture and lost its true identity. We all love Donut Sundays right?!? Now, imagine, if on Sunday we held a donut social without Mass… that would be ludicrous! Worse yet, it even became a place where false gods were worshipped. For ancient Jews, however, one of the qualities expected in the coming Messiah, was that he would come to purify the temple. He would reform the temple and bring it back to its original purpose – the place to encounter God.
Certainly, this Gospel is important for Fr. Tony, myself and the pastoral staff to reflect on to ensure that we are keeping the original intent of the Mass, but I think there is a personal reflection here as well for each of us.
What is the modern-day temple? Saint Paul answer this question for us, I urge you, brothers and sisters, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1). Or again, he asks, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…? (1 Cor 6:19).
So each of us is a temple of God. Here is the great wisdom of our church. We are asked to meditate and pray on this Gospel during the season of Lent. A season that we are intentionally trying to turn back to God, and purify our hearts – to purify our temples!
Here is a good question to ask ourselves this week…. “What would Jesus do, if he came into my temple right now?” The challenge then is to allow our consciences to be stirred up. The challenge is to let Jesus come into our hearts with a whip made of cords, to turn over the areas of our lives that need conversion.
How do we do this? We turn to the first reading and meditate on the ten commandments. Like the ancient Jews who had allowed worship of false gods to exist in the temple, do our hearts worship false gods in our lives: in the way of our attachments to things (phones!), sports, work, money etc? Do I love God with all my heart and seek a deeper relationship with him? Do we love our neighbor? How is our speech of others? How do we respond to the needs of the poor? Are there dark areas that exist in my heart (addictions)?
Here’s the good news… And I wish I could say that Fr. Tony and I knew that we were planning it this way. But tonight, we are having our parish-wide penance service. We will have adoration and confessions available. Friends, I encourage you, to come tonight an encounter the living God in adoration and in the Sacrament of Penance. May we all allow Christ into our hearts and to purify our temples!
In Christ’s Love and Friendship,