3rd Sunday in Lent
When the time of the Jewish Passover was near Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting there. Making a whip out of cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, sheep and cattle as well, scattered the money changers coins, knocked their tables over, and said to the dove sellers, "Take all this out of here and stop using my Father's house as a market." Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: "I am consumed with zeal for your house." The Jews intervened and said, "What sign can you show us that you should act like this?" Jesus answered, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple: are you going to raise it up again in three days?" But he was speaking of the Temple that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciple remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what he had said. During his stay in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he did, but Jesus knew all people and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about anyone; he could tell what someone had in him.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, by Baptism you made me a Temple of the Holy Spirit. You often come to visit this Temple, I invite you in often, as when I receive you in Communion and I open the doors of my soul to you when I pray. I believe in you, I hope in you and I love you. Stay with me always and never allow me to separate myself from you.
Petition: Lord, I want to be worthy of you, so come into my soul in this time of prayer and during this season of Lent to show me what I must change, and give me the courage to put you in the first place in my life.
1. God’s Temple. Different buildings have different uses, and are designed by their owners/creators with that particular purpose in view. Everything is chosen and put together for the purpose for which the building is built. God built us after his image and likeness, and he came to visit daily with our first parents. He always wanted us to have the joy that comes only from knowing him and being with him. Saint Augustine said in prayer: “You made us for yourself and our heart is not at rest until it rests in you.” Our soul will always be searching for the true purpose of our lives, and we will never achieve it until we find and accept God into our heart, until we become his Temple.
Man cannot do this on his own initiative and relying on his natural powers alone, so Christ came to redeem us and open for us the possibility of God entering our soul giving us the ability to communicate with him. And this possibility was made real for each of us the day we were baptized. From then on we are truly children of God, Temples of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, it is true that we often realize that we are unworthy; it is true that we often forget the reality of God’s presence in our lives; it is true that we often drive him out and allow our souls to become a marketplace of ambitions and desires that have little to do with him. Through all of this, however, it remains true that Jesus is always willing and ready to come into our soul and restore it to its true dignity by restoring his presence in Grace. It involves cleaning out the “old self” to make room for the New Man in Christ. Let us open the door of our Temple and invite him in, humbly.
2. "Take These Things Out of Here." The people in the Temple were surprised, perhaps scandalized, at Jesus’ actions. They resisted him for they thought they were correct and he had no right to upset their profitable businesses; they were, after all, serving the Temple! Pope Francis warns us of the great temptation to “spiritual worldliness” (in Evangelii Gaudium, #93-97, and several other places since) and tells us to be on guard and not allow ourselves to be “robbed of the gospel”. The authenticity of our faith, of our “Following of Christ” is what is at stake.
God enlightens our conscience through faith in the teachings of Jesus, through his example in the Gospel and through the teaching of the Church, so we are the ones who know that the just man falls seven times a day, and for that reason, moved by his grace, we spontaneously invite him in. But we know we do so at a price. Many things we are attached to will have to go, many of the tables on which we base our security will have to be overturned. We will have to readjust our standards for he will make us realize in how many things we are not acting like the Christians we say we are—whether it be in our weak prayer-life, in our lack of charity, in our absorption in material things and human ambition, in our omission of the good, in our passivity to bring the message of Christ to those around us, in our acquiescence to those who do not respect the gift of life….
How will we know what Jesus wants to change and correct in our lives? We have to learn about our faith to understand what Christ expects of us, we have to form our conscience to know not only what is right and wrong but especially what is better, we ought to have a spiritual director who can help us clear up what is unclear to us. All of this is letting Jesus do his work in making the temple of our soul and body a true Temple of God.
3. "He Could Tell What Someone Had in Him." These might at first seem ominous words and threatening when the Gospel adds that for this reason Jesus did not trust man. But in reality they are reassuring. No one knows us like God. Our failings and sins do not surprise him. He loves us not because he is deceived and thinks we are perfect; nor does he love us because of our failings but for that part of himself that he breathed into us at creation and then that transformation of our soul that he worked in Baptism. He knows our weakness on our own, but he also knows our possibilities when we let his grace work in us.
Because he knows what we are like, he doesn’t abandon us to our own devices. He gives us his grace, he offers us his pardon, he gives us the help of his sacraments, he gives us the support of his family in the Church. God never abandons us—proof is, he sometimes gives us a good shaking up. He is inviting us again this Lent to seek him more sincerely. God knows that we can be his followers one moment and deny him the next, as happened from Palm Sunday to Good Friday in Jerusalem. On the other hand, he himself is always faithful, as he demonstrated so well on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Pentecost, when he fulfilled his promises to those who had abandoned him, despite them having abandoned him. He is still fulfilling his promise through the Holy Spirit whom he sent to lead us to the fullness of truth. Let us renew our faith and trust in this great mystery of the mercy and kindness of our Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us.
Conversation: Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me life. Thank you for making me your Temple in Baptism and for your presence in my soul through grace. I know you are leading me. Give me the love and trust I need to open my heart for you to come in and change what you want. I know you are only looking for what is best for me and for those you want to reach through me. I embrace your plan. Jesus, I trust in you, for you are the true friend of my soul.
1. How much of a Temple of the Holy Spirit am I in my daily life? Am I growing in the life of grace?
2. What is the first thing that Christ would want to clean out of God’s temple, which is my soul? And what is the first thing he would notice is missing in that same temple?
3. Do I have absolute faith and trust in the power of God’s grace to transform me if I work along with it?