The reading this Third Sunday of Lent speaks to us about Jesus who is angry about what is going on in the Temple, the house of his Father. It is easy when we read this Scripture to focus on Jesus’ indignation. A lot of time you will hear people reflecting on this passage to help them make sense of their own anger: “See even Jesus got angry!””There is such a thing as justified anger! Look at Jesus in the temple!”
But one day one of my sisters shared with me a whole other take on this passage that actually made me think a lot about myself.
This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:
The treasure of Scripture, however, is that it is really about , about how Jesus interacts with you and me. Jesus comes into our practice of religion and overturns what we think had been good. I arrive at church on time. I drop my kids off at CCD. I volunteer to count the money three times a year. I cantor at the 12:15 Mass. I’ve entered a religious community of women and spend my life taking care of the elderly.… We too can settle into routine, just as the people selling animals for sacrifice in the Temple had settled into a routine expression of their religion.
Routine is not all that bad. At first it remains connected to the deeper meaning and motivation that prompts a way of living or believing. But what is simply routine over time can become disconnected with the deeper values that permeate it and slip into a rut, gradually degenerating over time into a mindless, heartless activity we no longer know why we are carrying out. Completing the activities of religious practice can then hide a heart that does not belong entirely to God.
Zeal for his Father’s house led Jesus to shake up the system, in a sense to force a personal answer to the questions: Why are you here? What are you doing? What do you expect of God? What have you given to God? What is your whole life all about? Jesus’ words refer to a prophetic verse in Jeremiah: Do not come to the Temple and say, “the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord,” as though that would cover over other areas of your life where you cheat and lie.… You’re making the Temple a den of thieves (cf. Jer 7:1–11).
Ask Jesus to come in and overturn those parts of your life where you have slipped into a rut; ask him to fill you with a zealous fire that burns with love of God.