3rd Sunday of Lent
We see Jesus in today’s gospel reading making quite a scene. He directly engages, he squarely confronts those who are turning the Temple into a marketplace. Those selling animals for sacrifice and the money changers are there for obvious reason: to make a profit off of the sacred practices of the Jewish faith. They are not there to serve the will of God. Rather, they are there to serve themselves. And this brings forth what we can call the “righteous anger” of Jesus.
It is important to point out that Jesus’ anger is not the result of him losing his temper. It is not the result of his out-of-control passion or emotions pouring forth in extreme anger. No, Jesus was fully in control of himself. According to John Paul Thomas, Jesus exercises his wrath as a result of a powerful passion of love. “In this case, his perfect love is manifested through the passion of anger.”
Anger is normally understood as a sin. It is sinful when it is the result of one losing control. But it is important to note that the passion of anger, in and of itself, is not sinful. A passion is a powerful drive which manifests itself in various ways. The key question to ask is: “What is driving that passion?”
In Jesus’ case, it is hatred for sin and love for the sinner that drives him to this “righteous anger” or “holy wrath.” By driving people out of the Temple with a whip out of cords, and by spilling the coins of the money changers and overturning their tables, Jesus makes it clear that he loves his Father, whose house they are in, and he loves the people enough to passionately rebuke the sin that they are committing. (John Paul Thomas) The ultimate goal of Jesus’ action is the conversion of people.
Make no mistake about it: Jesus hates the sin in our life with the same perfect passion. At times, we need a holy rebuke to set us on the correct path. May the conversion we experience this Lent be deep enough so as to feel and realize the righteous anger of the Lord. We must not be afraid to let the Lord give or show this holy rebuke to us this Lent if that is what it takes to cleanse our personal temples.
Let us reflect upon those parts of our life that Jesus wants to cleanse. Indeed, this Lenten season should be a form of cleansing our temples. What form of cleansing do we need to undergo? First of all, we have to be cleansed of the so-called “seven deadly sins.” What are these? Banggitin nga po natin nang isa-isa: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. We have to be cleansed of evil thoughts and deeds, of doubts and suspicions, of uncertainties and insecurities, of worries, fears, and anxieties, of dishonesty and unfairness, of cheating and unfaithfulness, of arrogance and self-righteousness, of gossiping and slander, of despair and hopelessness, of sexual immorality and other immoralities.
As you can see, we often defile our personal temples. In what other ways can we defile or violate ourselves as the temple of the Holy Spirit? Let me put it this way… If we are caught up in our selfish interests and ambitions, if our only concern is our own wants and needs, that we ignore the welfare of the needy, we destroy ourselves as God’s dwelling. If we are unjust in our dealings with our neighbor, if we allow envy, jealousy, and covetousness to consume us, if we harbor anger, resentment, and bitterness in our hearts, we desecrate the Temple of the Holy Spirit. If we are consumed with an excessive desire or lust for money, if we work to death to get and accumulate material things, we defile the temple of the Holy Spirit. We destroy, we desecrate, we defile God’s temple in this sense because are not meant to live that way.
Our bodies were not made to be “production machines” to earn money; they were not made for self-promotion and worldly honors; they were not made for self-satisfaction and sensual pleasures. Money, fame, or pleasure is not evil in itself; but God made us, his temple, for higher things. We are made for God, and for God alone. We are made to be temples of the Holy Spirit. We are made to work for the building up of God’s kingdom – which is a kingdom of mercy and compassion, fellowship and sharing, forgiveness and reconciliation, truth and justice, peace and love.
May this Lenten season be a moment of cleansing for us – in order that our bodies may become sacred temples. Let us allow the Lord to speak directly and firmly to us so that we will be driven to repentance. The Lord loves us with a perfect love and desires that all sin in our life be cleansed.