Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).
Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
"Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
"What sign can you show us for doing this?"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."
The Jews said,
"This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?"
But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
many began to believe in his name
when they saw the signs he was doing.
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,
and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.
He himself understood it well.
Since my personal theme this Lent is "gentleness," this scene is difficult for me to grasp. (and no, that's not going as well as I had imagined!) What is notable is that Jesus saves His righteous anger for those disturbing the sacredness of the temple. In the rest of the Gospel stories, he is gentle with the tax collectors and prostitutes. He is gentle with the sinners and pharisees. He is even gentle with Judas, His betrayer. Yet, here, He displays passion and purpose, overturning tables and cracking a whip.
Think about Holy Mother Church, especially in our country. The scandals that have recently rocked the faith of so many seem to drag on and on and have endless consequences. Even my own diocese has recently committed to withdrawing all financial support for all parishes due to financial woes from legal settlements and the like (which, by the way, might result in the closure of some of the poorest parishes, including my own, if we cannot raise our own funds to cover the gap left by the diocese; please pray!). All over the world, the sins of men present in the Church have defaced her holiness.
Think about your church building before, during, and after Mass. So few enter the House of God in humble silence and adoration, rather waving to friends and chatting with neighbors. I even saw a woman take a cell phone call during Mass a few weeks ago (yes, while sitting in a pew)! Announcements during Mass and countless tables in the narthex promoting some cause or fund can take away from Holy Mass (but do not always). Some even promote sinful behaviors or "social justice" issues that are contrary to Church teaching. Most simply do not behave as if they are walking on holy ground and approaching the altar of God.
Think about the temple that is the body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, where He resides in a physical way when we receive the Eucharist. In this Gospel, Jesus even refers to His body as the temple that will be rebuilt in three days. It is difficult to care for ourselves when caring for our families --- eating right, exercising, sleeping enough. Many struggle with sins of the flesh and/or tongue --- dressing immodestly, sexual immorality, gossip and slander. Our bodies are holy ground, just like our parish church, just like Holy Mother Church, just like the temple in Jerusalem.
Clearly, there is no sin that disturbs our Lord more than to profane what is sacred. For these sins, we must seek continual forgiveness and conversion, for ourselves and for others. We must pray for our Church, our priests, our parish, our bodies, that we may all be witness to the glory of God and not cause the Lord any further anguish.
Jesus, remind us of your righteous anger when we witness or experience someone or something that takes away from all things sacred. Help us to act, in gentleness where appropriate and with passion where appropriate, to bring reverence and awe to this world of sin.