Third Sunday of Lent: Discovering our inner sanctuary
Posted: Thu, 04 Mar 2021 15:26
In the gospel for 3rd Sunday of Lent, we see Jesus 'cleansing the Temple' (John 2: 13-25). Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB reflects on Lent as an opportunity to cooperate with Jesus to give our lives a spring-clean and find the sacred space within ourselves. Image: The Cleansing of the Temple by Giuseppe Passeri, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Today we turn to John's gospel and share his account of the cleansing of the Temple. Unlike the Synoptic gospels, John does not place this event at the start of Holy Week; he puts this unusual event at of start of the public ministry of Jesus, coming just after the miracle at Cana. At the wedding feast, we see the sign of the Messianic Reign of God: extraordinary comes from the ordinary; there is plenty and more than enough. Jesus invites us to change the world by our attitude and practical care for others.
We should not picture Jesus knocking tables over like someone in a bar-room fight, or as though he went on a rampage. This was a symbolic action, the kind of thing prophets did when, for example, they would take a piece of pottery and break it to illustrate how Israel had broken the covenant with God. We are given an annual opportunity to cleanse our lives too; Lent is a time when we move the furniture in our lives, take down the curtains, wash the windows. It is not just a matter of getting rid of dirt: it is a chance to rearrange things, find ways to create more room and enjoy a neater space. We see ourselves differently, and can make more room for God in our lives
This new and exciting Messianic age will be marked by justice and integrity: the seeming act of temper and violence by Jesus points to an important reality—his Father's house is not a market. In approaching the glory of God, we can be distracted by all manner of things but today, Jesus wants to take away all our worries and concerns, those things that weigh us down. If we are open to it, Jesus can change our lives too—we can cast out all those distractions that keep us from fully following Jesus and supporting others. In Jesus, God gives us a sort of self-portrait. He pours into Jesus everything of himself that can be put in human form, and then comes to live with us. In Jesus we see the commandments brought to life and we see the love, compassion and mercy of God, bringing forgiveness and healing to the bruised places of our hearts.
In his conversation with the leaders of his faith; Jesus opens a discussion on the glory of Resurrection. At the start of John's gospel, we see him pointing to the real implications of 'the Word became flesh'. Jesus has come into this sacred place on pilgrimage with family and friends; this Lent has given us another opportunity to discover our own sacred space. Our fasting, prayer and almsgiving have allowed us to discover the sanctuary that lies within each of us. That sacred space within each of us is where love can dwell and flow from us: a place of peace and light; the place where God is. We are called to live our lives from that sacred space of God and to love and respect the sacred space of God in others. Lent is perhaps a good time to visit our inner sanctuary more often and spend more time there, listening for God's voice.
Many people have said that this time of pandemic, a time of grief and mourning for many of us, has forced us to think more deeply about our lives. It can be a time when we think about what's really important and what is just cluttering our lives up with distractions and stuff we do not need or want any more. Pope Francis has used this passage to help us understand our need for authentic worship and liturgy. Our worship today, either online or in person, should promote a strong and living encounter with God—it is not about making ourselves feel better. Religion is not escapism, rather it is deeply rooted in our lives; the Holy Father is calling for a real spiritual integration so that we are not just 'Sunday Christians':
The Church calls us to have and promote an authentic liturgical life, a harmony between that which the liturgy celebrates and that which we experience in our lives.
Pope Francis, 07/03/2015