We are all familiar with the gospel passage in John 2 where Jesus enters the temple, and consumed with anger, drives out the sheep and oxen with a whip and overturns the tables of the moneychangers, spilling their coins everywhere.
It’s a story that has always made me shudder a little. Wow! Jesus is really angry! What a scene that must have been – everyone scrambling to retrieve their animals and pick up their money before anyone else grabbed it. Utter chaos! And, then I rise up in righteous indignation, saying: Yes! He had every right to cleanse the synagogue. Those people should have known better. They got exactly what they deserved. It is a good thing we don’t see that any more.
Something has changed for me, however, when I reflected on that scripture this year. I think there is another layer to the story – one that goes deeper than the historical account, one that touches much closer to home.
St. Paul tells us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that means that our hearts are temples also, dwelling places of God’s Spirit. I think we all have to admit that many times our hearts look like a marketplace too.
Our love for God and God’s primary place in our temples sometimes gets shoved to the side by our own anger, our own self-righteousness, and our own biases and prejudices. We have our own sheep and oxen that we use as sacrificial offerings and ways to bargain with God. We set up tables of needless concern and worry. We fill our pockets with mindless and meaningless activities. Our hearts become overcrowded with things over which we have no control – the weather, what our neighbors are doing, the latest gadget or technology we just have to have, who is doing what on Facebook and hundreds of other petty, inconsequential thoughts that vie for attention in our hearts.
Maybe, it is our own temples that need cleansing today. I know mine does, and Lent offers the perfect opportunity to do our own housecleaning. With God’s grace we can begin to see those areas in our hearts that look more like a marketplace and start to transform them into the sanctuary of love they are meant to be.