Temple Cleansing

Jn. 2:13-22

“Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (NRSV)

The admonition not to make my father’s house a “den of thieves,” “temple of commerce,” or “marketplace” clearly establishes the point that the purpose of houses of worship is to worship: to glorify God, to hear His word, and to learn, pray, and praise.

This admonition pops up in any parish every time there is a fund-raising event. You and I are caught in the bind of having to do the work of the house of the Lord to physically maintain it and the need for keeping the purity of “the house’s” intent.

The greater Church has a similar pinch. I am currently reading two books, Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt, and The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris. On the one hand, Angela’s Ashes is the story of a young boy growing up in Ireland under unbelievable conditions of poverty. The behavior of the priests and brothers is often appalling. The parochial system of education in the primary grades is brutal. From this perspective the Church has become a den of thieves, a merchant of Venice’s Shylock’s domain.

On the other hand, Kathleen Norris writes of spending two nine-month periods of time in a cloistered monastery in Minnesota, where, through hearing the Scriptures read, participating in the liturgy, and practicing the Benedictine discipline, she understands a wholly different dimension of herself and the world.

So it is in society. A local company reported in yesterday’s newspaper large profits. It was the business world at its best and not to be sneered at. And yet, the company makes guns! The success of society has a flip side, for I have to try to find housing and money for food for the abused and forgotten of this same society - society that produces not only guns but also the Metropolitan Opera.

My parish, the Church at large, our society are all caught in the dilemma of choices and the outcome of our actions. We find over and over that our actions have unexpected contradictory results too often our efforts to build the City of God yield the City of Man.

During Lent, ponder the tensions in your life: where there should be purity of intent and action and there isn’t. In Jesus, God took upon Himself the complexities of our lives. Like the sacrificial lamb, He bore our sinful failings. With Him, you and I can sacrifice that within us which is base, self-centered, and homeocentric. In your meditations and prayers, let God’s Holy Spirit drive from you that which is unfit in the temple of your body, spirit, and mind. Christ has died with and for you. Let Christ rise and live with and in you. Amen.