Third Sunday of Lent | Year B
John 2: 13-25
Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.
During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.
When Jesus entered the Temple he reacted strongly against the business being conducted within its precincts. People bought the animals for sacrifice, and because buying and selling were taking place, there were money changers. It was indeed a market.
The “market” was related to what went on in the Temple. But it had shifted the focus and the atmosphere away from the Temple as the house of God, and had possibly even undermined the meaning of sacrifice which the animals represented.
The activity was associated with the Temple, and in that sense it was religious activity, but it was really commercial activity. It was religious clutter.
Lent is a good time to look at the religious clutter in our lives. Our relationship with Jesus is central to following him faithfully. It is nurtured by prayer, reflection, scripture – and they need some time. In them we meet Jesus within the temple of our souls. We go out from this place to serve and meet him in others.
Being involved in many activities of a religious nature, but not entering the temple within through prayer is like being heavily involved in the market at the entrance to the Temple but never entering the Temple itself. No matter how much all our activity does for others or for our parish or diocese, it cannot be a substitute for nurturing our relationship with God.
When we work for the Church or are heavily involved in voluntary activities it is easy to believe that we are doing everything needed to follow Christ. In fact all the activity can be pushing out the one thing that really matters.
It may not be “Catholic” activity that is cluttering our lives and excluding time in the temple. All sorts of “good” activities can do this, as can being over-committed in the obligations we have taken on to do things for others.
Take time for some de-cluttering this week.