What is your passion? For Jesus, it was doing the will of His Father. Clearly, we can step back and notice Jesus’ anger in this Gospel passage. The Temple was close to His heart. He felt at home there; after all, it was His Father’s House. It was meant as a sacred space for all people, but commercialism crept in and the hucksters abounded. Sadly, the temple merchants were profiting from the people’s piety and exploiting the poor.
Are religion and religious practice today becoming tainted with commercialism creeping in as well? Celebrations are important rites of passage; however, Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation parties, and lavish wedding receptions replete with extravagant gift giving and spending can draw the focus away from the more important spiritual nature of these sacraments.
Jesus’ anger provides a clear message: the combination of money with religion can cause tension. Cleansing the Temple of greedy merchants was a dramatic moment. We read in Scripture that love for His Father and His Father’s House consumed Jesus. Ultimately, this brought Him into direct conflict with the religious authorities and, in effect, signed His death warrant. This event was part of the religious leaders’ rationale for Jesus’ eventual arrest and crucifixion.
In retrospect, Jesus’ overturning the tables also was a wake-up call for all of us: we need to move on from complacency. Lent is an invitation to simplify and re-focus our lives through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Even good things can get between us and our relationship with God when approached in the wrong manner. On this Third Sunday of Lent, perhaps our prayer needs to be that God will overturn the tables of materialism and commercialism in our lives and help us to divest ourselves of all that is unnecessary, so that our hearts may be open to His amazing presence in our world.
Sr. Marcella Louise Wallowicz CSFN