My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We are almost half-way on our Lenten journey. And the scene we have just witnessed in today’s Gospel is strong. Jesus comes to drive the money-changers out of the Temple in Jerusalem.
This is one of the scenes in the Gospel that often gets misunderstood.
Jesus, as we know, is not performing some violent protest. Jesus rejects violence. His way is always the way of love and self-sacrifice.
His action today is symbolic, it is meant to be prophetic. He is reminding the people that God wants pure worship, a worship that is true and from the heart.
We heard his words: “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
We cannot worship God with mixed motives, with distracted minds and divided hearts.
And as I was reflecting on this passage in the Gospel this week, it struck me that we are also “temples” — you and me, every one of us.
St. Paul teaches that Baptism makes us temples of God. In one of his letters, St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you.”2
And Lent is the time each year when we prepare to renew our Baptismal promises at Easter. And so Lent is the time where we invite Jesus to enter into the “temples of our hearts.”
We need to open our hearts and ask Jesus to look into our hearts and to tell us what he sees. We ask him to come in — in his love and in his mercy — and to purify our hearts.
We ask him in his mercy to “spill the coins” and “overturn the tables,” and to “drive out” all the distractions and false idols and false priorities.
This week I was in a meeting with some brother bishops from Canada and South America and in one of the Masses, one of the bishops from Canada gave a very brief homily. Just a few minutes. And he reminded us that this Lenten season is really about a change of heart.
And that’s what it is. It is really to think about it and see what is it that I need to change in my heart.
One of those things, as Jesus is saying, that we need to get rid of — the challenge that we have is that we are too busy. We tend to be distracted. There is so much noise in our lives today. We have so many responsibilities, sometimes the burdens of making a living or the challenges of our family life can fill our hearts and make it hard to live in God’s presence and hear his voice.
It’s always a challenge — even for the saints! I read a story yesterday about St. Francis de Sales. He was a great teacher of holiness, and a doctor of the Church. The story that I read said that sometimes he would spend his whole day in prayer — just asking God to take away his distractions, to allow him to concentrate.
That’s the grace that we are asking God for during this Lenten season. I mean, it’s not that we have too many days that we can do nothing but prayer because we all work hard and, as I said, many obligations.
But all of those things that are accumulating in our hearts. With the help of the grace of God, we need to get rid of them and open our hearts to God’s mercy and love. And change those things that we can do better.
The Gospel also invites us to think about our hope for salvation, for heaven.
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He is talking, as we heard, about the temple of his body. And this is, my dear brothers and sisters, the promise of our salvation.
By allowing the temple of his body to be destroyed, Jesus makes salvation possible. Though the temple of his body was destroyed, he rose. By dying and rising again, he opens the door to heaven for us and for every person.
And this is the desire of every heart. This is what we all long for.
Heaven it is the fulfillment of God’s beautiful dream for creation and heaven is the destination — the goal and the purpose —of every one of our lives. Every one of us.
We cannot go to heaven by our own strength. We need Jesus. Because he has risen, we too know that we will rise.
This is what St. Paul is talking about in the second reading of today’s Mass. “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
And we are, my brothers and sisters, the ones St. Paul is talking about. We are “called” by Christ, personally, our lives have a new purpose: to live according to his wisdom.
So, during this Lenten season, let us continue to remember our Baptism. To really worship God with our whole hearts in spirit and truth.
Jesus has risen from the dead. And because he has risen, we too will rise. We can follow him to heaven, if we follow him here on earth.
So, let us allow Jesus in his power to transform our lives. To cleanse the temples of our hearts and help us to live according to his commandments and to walk in the path he sets before us.
And may Mary Our Blessed Mother Mary intercede for us and help us to really have a conversion of heart this Lenten season, trusting in the mercy of God.
1. Readings: Exod. 20:1-17; Ps. 19:8-11; 1 Cor. 1:22-25; John 2:13-25.
2. 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:19.