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Lenten Reflection, The Third Sunday of Lent

March 8, 2012

–John 2:13-25 – Jesus and the money changers

 

An interesting point came up a few years ago when this passage was used in class for the daily prayer. One of the students said, “If this passage is true, how come there is something being sold every Sunday at our parish in the gathering space?“

That is a very good question! I think you can get around comparing these issues by pointing out that the things offered after Mass on Sunday are normally benefitting some program or charitable organization the parish is supporting and not selling things solely for the profit of the merchant, but this is still a pertinent question. Have we turned our church into a market place?

I think most of us are annoyed or offended when our doorbell rings and it’s someone from a religious group that proselytizes through the neighborhoods. Our home is supposed to be a place sacred to our well being and it is offensive to me when someone tells me I am religiously misguided and on the road to damnation on my property. While I will be polite and say “no thanks” or engage in a counter debate in a friendly manner, what I am really doing in the back of my mind is making a whip out of cords to drive them away! They have invaded a place that they do not belong, a sacred space.

This is the idea I think the student was getting at in this passage when he brought up this tough question. Whether he realized it or not, what he was saying to me is, “I just sang, prayed and received my Lord and Savior in the Eucharist, and now you want to get into my wallet? How about you give me a moment to enjoy this relationship. Better yet, get out of my temple and sell your wares elsewhere!”

We have in this Gospel passage a moment where Heaven and earth collide. The ways of God and the ways of man are in conflict, and the Jesus that has become popular in the last several decades is nowhere to be found. The friendly, huggable, nice and peace-loving Jesus that we have come to know is beating on people with a whip of cords. Does this shock you?

What actually shocks me in my personal reflection and prayer in this passage is how I have become so accustomed to rationalizing my personal adoption of secular culture into my Christian existence. How quickly I can justify not speaking out on any number of difficult topics that are clearly in conflict with the Gospel message or ignore a clear injustice in the world for the sake of a false peace or a false sense of security.

Jesus was in no way comfortable or secure in his time on earth. Almost every moment of his ministry that we know from the Gospels was, in one way or anther, a moment of conflict with the status quo. This Lent I pray that I will have the courage to listen to Jesus as I reread the Scriptures and know that a sure sign of authentic peace with God will be accompanied by an uncomfortable relationship with the world. Our home is with God eternally in Heaven, this passing world is wonderful, but only temporary, and our engagement in the world should be colored by our desire to be in union with our God and leading others to this beautiful union.

 

– Fr. Andy McAlpin, O.P.

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