Spring is only a few weeks away, and with spring comes the tradition of spring cleaning. This Sunday the liturgy recalls Our Lord clearing the Temple. It’s a good occasion to remind us of the importance of Lenten cleaning so we can get started. We still have three weeks before Holy Week, so there’s still time to examine your heart and clear your temple too.
When you live in filth it’s easy to forget what is filthy and what is not. Today’s First Reading reminds us how we should do a good Lenten cleaning: by examining how we’ve lived the Ten Commandments. They present a simple question: is the world in which we live happier when they’re lived or not?
- Is a world that doesn’t put God first a happier world? Not the caricature of God that people paint of an overbearing and cruel being, but a loving Father.
- Is the world happier when the only time you hear God’s name is as a swear word, not as an invocation and acknowledgment of someone who loves you?
- Is the world happier when we work 24/7 instead of taking out time for God and family once a week?
- Is the world happier when we ignore or just tolerate our parents instead of cherishing them and their role in giving us life?
- Is the world happier when we hate, harm, or kill others out of payback?
- Is the world happier when we cheapen “love” and make it egotistical by avoiding or abandoning commitment?
- Is the world happier when we don’t give others their due, or respect their property?
- Is the world happier when we get back at someone by lying about them, or dishonestly get out of trouble at their expense?
- Is the world happier when all we can think of is what our neighbors have and what we don’t?
As much as we might try to convince ourselves otherwise, we all know the answer.
In today’s Second Reading Paul points to the best response to those who take issue with God or what he expects of us: Christ Crucified. The Jews demanded signs proving someone was from God or favored by him. Suffering and misfortune for them was a sign of punishment from God. So how does that logic fit with God crucified on a Cross for us? The Greeks sought to cultivate a refined view of the world and man and to live life in the most satisfying way possible through philosophy. When Paul preached to them about the Resurrection, they laughed at him (see Acts 17:28–34). This life was all there was, according to their “philosophy”; live it to the full.
Christ crucified challenged their philosophy: what seemed folly to them, a failed life, was actually the path to an eternal life that would make them see their earthly life in a new light. The destruction of Christ’s Temple, his Passion and death, would pave the way not only for his eternal life, but for ours. It’s worth noting that not all the Greeks laughed at Paul about the Resurrection. We have to always be open to the greater truth of life’s meaning and fulfillment.
Today’s Gospel is a good opportunity to remind us of the importance of Lenten cleaning. Our Lord not only clears out the Temple; he associates it with himself. He goes from denouncing those who commercialized his Father’s house to describing his own body as a Temple. Paul would later teach that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:19-20). If Our Lord established a parallelism between a Temple of stone and us, the temples of his Spirit, it’s an opportunity to see whether we need to clear out our temple from all the wheeling and dealing that makes us simply want to profit from God and others and not love them with all our heart.
Our Lord is kind, compassionate, merciful, and ready to lay down his life, but in the case of those vendors and money changers he was firm and unyielding: his Father, our Father, came first. He didn’t ask them to leave; he drove them out. We need to have the same firmness when casting out anything in our heart that would come between us and God. Our Lord foretold that the temple of his own body would be destroyed, but also rebuilt. Sin destroyed Our Lord’s body, a sin for which he was blameless, but sin did not have the last word. If we clean house this Lent we should not fear that the only thing that would be left is a ravaged temple. It is sin that ravages our temple. Our Lord will rebuild us, no matter how much we’ve wrecked our temple, if we try to be holy.
You are a Temple of the Holy Spirit. The Most Holy Trinity came into your heart the moment of your Baptism, and the only one who can evict God is you (through grave sin). The innermost, most sacred part of the Israelite’s Temple’s was called the Holy of Holies, and your heart is the same thing for your “temple.” Your heart is meant to be a place where you can be with your Lord alone, free of distractions and worries, speaking heart to heart. If there’s anyone or anything else in there coming between you and the Lord, or if you feel your time with the Lord is more wheeling and dealing than family time, it’s time to clear out your heart.
Readings: Exodus 20:1–17; Psalm 19:8–11; 1 Corinthians 1:22–25; John 2:13–25.