Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
The arrival of Jesus as Messiah has a profound impact on our lives as Christians. Jesus is the one who brings the salvation. He is the bridge between heaven and earth. The teaching of Jesus challenges the conventional wisdom of his day and cleanses the absurd practices that had become commonplace in the Judaic faith. In today’s gospel we encounter an angry Christ. The people of Jesus’ day were hungering for intimacy with God as they tried to reconcile their failures. It was common for the people to sacrifice animals in atonement for their sins. The temple traders benefited from the people’s guilt and the sale of animals for sacrificial offering became a lucrative business. Jesus recognizes the people’s faith. He confronts the abuses of the day traders. The anger that Jesus demonstrates is a justified refusal to allow anyone to fool around with God’s mercy. The temple was a house of prayer — not a place for people to be taken advantage of. Jesus’ sign would be to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. For the discerning Christian we know this means his death and resurrection, the once-and-for-all sacrifice that would bring atonement for sin!
The Christian experience has from time to time bargained with the mercy of God. The Reformation occurred because of the absurd practices that had become the fabric of the ecclesial life. One of the common abuses was that of the sale of indulgences. People believed if they bought and sold indulgences that they could buy their way into heaven. The only problem was that the Reformers went too far. The Reformation provoked the much-needed reform in the Roman Catholic Church. The Counter Reformation grappled with the pastoral realities of the Church prompting change in regard to the education of its priests. It also defined exactly what the Church taught and believed. All the abuses that existed in regard to the sale of indulgences was confronted and ended. The mercy of God was to be found through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
If we are truthful with ourselves, we have all played games in our relationship with God. How many of us promise God that we are going to walk away from a recurring sin and break that promise? People find it hard to let go of the sin of the past. One of the greatest sins we commit is not allowing God to forgive us. It is absurd to believe that God will not forgive us when we are contrite. The whole project of Jesus’ mission was to reconcile the world to himself by the blood of His cross. We can use the Ten Commandments to see what God expects from us. Each commandment points to the significance of right relationship with God and with one another. Human weakness breaks that right relationship. However, God constantly invites us to come back and to be reconciled with Him. This is the beauty of Lent. We are reminded every time we celebrate mass in the once-and-for-all unbloodied sacrifice that Christ desires reconciliation and intimacy with us. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can name our sin and allow Christ to forgive us and bring us incomprehensible healing.
The cleansing of the temple reminds us that mercy is sacred to God. Jesus was consumed by his love of the temple which was his Father’s house.
image:“Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple”/El Greco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Be merciful to us, O Lord, for we have sinned! May our hunger for you bring us to the threshold of eternal life. Enable us to experience your Truth and forgiveness through the gift of the Church. Encourage us in the midst of failure and help us to move on. Create within us a new heart so that we may experience You in new ways. Amen.
How do you contribute to building your local parish?
Do you use your gifts and talents to benefit your parish and local community?
What are the obstacles that stand between you and God’s will?
How does God’s mercy play a role in your life?
Does God’s Word have centrality in your life?
Voices of Faith
The Living Temple
Not in the world of light alone,
Where God has built his blazing throne,
Nor yet alone in earth below,
With belted seas that come and go,
And endless isles of sunlit green,
Is all thy Maker’s glory seen:
Look in upon thy wondrous frame, —
Eternal wisdom still the same!
The smooth, soft air with pulse-like waves
Flows murmuring through its hidden caves,
Whose streams of brightening purple rush,
Fired with a new and livelier blush,
While all their burden of decay
The ebbing current steals away,
And red with Nature’s flame they start
From the warm fountains of the heart.
No rest that throbbing slave may ask,
Forever quivering o’er his task,
While far and wide a crimson jet
Leaps forth to fill the woven net
Which in unnumbered crossing tides
The flood of burning life divides,
Then, kindling each decaying part,
Creeps back to find the throbbing heart.
But warmed with that unchanging flame
Behold the outward moving frame,
Its living marbles jointed strong
With glistening band and silvery thong,
And linked to reason’s guiding reins
By myriad rings in trembling chains,
Each graven with the threaded zone
Which claims it as the master’s own.
See how yon beam of seeming white
Is braided out of seven-hued light,
Yet in those lucid globes no ray
By any chance shall break astray.
Hark how the rolling surge of sound,
Arches and spirals circling round,
Wakes the hushed spirit through thine ear
With music it is heaven to hear.
Then mark the cloven sphere that holds
All thought in its mysterious folds;
That feels sensation’s faintest thrill,
And flashes forth the sovereign will;
Think on the stormy world that dwells
Locked in its dim and clustering cells!
The lightning gleams of power it sheds
Along its hollow glassy threads!
O Father! grant thy love divine
To make these mystic temples thine!
When wasting age and wearying strife
Have sapped the leaning walls of life,
When darkness gathers over all,
And the last tottering pillars fall,
Take the poor dust thy mercy warms,
And mould it into heavenly forms!
— Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894)