3RD Sunday of Lent (B) Gospel Reflection
ALLOW JESUS, THE DEFINITIVE TEMPLE, THE MEETING PLACE BETWEEN GOD AND HUMANITY, TO CLEANSE THE TEMPLE OF YOUR HEART (Pope Francis).
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today’s Gospel presents the episode of the expulsion of the merchants from the temple (Jn 2:13-25). Jesus “made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen” (Jn 2:15), the money, everything. Such a gesture gave rise to strong impressions in the people and in the disciples. It clearly appeared as a prophetic gesture, so much so that some of those present asked Jesus: “[But] what sign can you show us for doing this?” (v. 18), who are you to do these things? Show us a sign that you have authority to do them. They are seeking a divine sign, a prodigy that would certify Jesus as being sent by God. And He responded: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). They replied: “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” (v. 20). They had not understood that the Lord was referring to the living temple of His body, that would be destroyed in the death on the Cross, but would be raised on the third day. For this, in “three days.” “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” (v. 22).
In effect, this gesture of Jesus and His prophetic message are fully understood in the light of His Pasch. We have here, according to the evangelist John, the first proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ: His body, destroyed on the Cross by the violence of sin, will become in the Resurrection the universal meeting place between God and men. And the Risen Christ is Himself the universal meeting place – for everyone! – between God and men. For this reason, His humanity is the true temple where God is revealed, speaks, is encountered; and the true worshippers, the true worshippers of God are not only the guardians of the material temple, the keepers of power and of religious knowledge, [but] they are those who worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23).
In this time of Lent we are preparing for the celebration of Easter, when we will renew the promises of our Baptism. Let us travel in the world as Jesus did, and let us make our whole existence a sign of our love for our brothers, especially the weakest and poorest, let us build for God a temple of our lives. And so we make it “encounterable” for those who we find along our journey. If we are witnesses of this living Christ, so many people will encounter Jesus in us, in our witness. But, we ask – and each one of us can ask ourselves – does the Lord feel at home in my life? Do we allow Him to “cleanse” our hearts and to drive out the idols, those attitudes of cupidity, jealousy, worldliness, envy, hatred, those habits of gossiping and tearing down others. Do I allow Him to cleanse all the behaviours that are against God, against our neighbour, and against ourselves, as we heard today in the first Reading? Each one can answer for himself, in the silence of his heart: “Do I allow Jesus to make my heart a little cleaner?” “Oh Father, I fear the rod!” But Jesus never strikes. Jesus cleanses with tenderness, with mercy, with love. Mercy is the His way of cleansing. Let us, each of us, let us allow the Lord to enter with His mercy – not with the whip, no, with His mercy – to cleanse our hearts. The whip of Jesus with us is His mercy. Let us open to Him the gates so that He would make us a little cleaner.
Every Eucharist that we celebrate with faith makes us grow as a living temple of the Lord, thanks to the communion with His crucified and risen Body. Jesus recognizes that which is in each of us, and knows well our most ardent desires: that of being inhabited by Him, only by Him. Let us allow Him to enter into our lives, into our families, into our hearts.
May Mary most holy, the privileged dwelling place of the Son of God, accompany us and sustain us on the Lenten journey, so that we might be able to rediscover the beauty of the encounter with Christ, the only One Who frees us and saves us.
Pope Francis, Angelus Address, March 7, 2015