Reflection for the third Sunday of Lent 2021
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2: 13-25)
On the third Sunday of Lent, we meet the angry Jesus. His anger is caused by the desecration of the dignity of the temple in Jerusalem, its humiliation to the place of empty rites. He drove out the money changers, dealers of pigeon, sheep and oxen… Jesus announces: “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise”. The Master wants to tell people that buying and sacrificing an oxen, sheep or a dove, it is unlikely that they will buy peace of mind, health, fulfilment of desires, or a clear conscience… Because that’s not what God wants. What the Creator desires from us is to sacrifice our hearts to him. A true, God-pleasing sacrifice is a grieving, humble heart (Ps 50 (51), 17) that God will never reject.
The heart of each of us is also a sanctuary of God, His abode, if we let Him in there. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
I ask myself – what is my relationship with God? Isn’t it just formal and based on trade exchange? Maybe I created a comfortable god for myself: amazing paintings, convenient religious services, spiritual comfort, clear accounting, and accountability. How simple would it be – I will do something good, I will pray, and You will definitely reward me, God. Maybe sometimes I make God the executor of my plans, the guarantor? Maybe I flip everything upside down, seeking my desires, wishes to become God’s plans? God wants a relationship of love and freedom with us, wants us to realise that we worship and glorify Him because He is the Creator, the Saviour. God wants a relationship of love and freedom with us, because “God is Love” (1 John 4: 8). God, our Father, truly knows what we really need and how to give us what we ask for. Sometimes we act like that widow who knocked on the judge’s house day and night until the judge finally settled her case – not because of his kindness, but because of the widow’s obsession (cf. Luke 18: 1-5).
Let us look further at today’s Gospel action. The elders of the temple demanded that Jesus prove that He had the right to protect the dignity of the temple, they demanded a sign, a miracle: “What sign can you give us that you have the right to do so?” (John 2:18). Jesus did not allow himself to be provoked to make miracles, but indicated the main sign, the resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up“ (John 2:19).
The Jews did not understand that Jesus was talking about the temple of His body – dead and resurrected on the third day, He is the temple of God. The stone temple of Jerusalem is no longer the true place of God’s nearness. He, the Son of the Father, is the true Temple, the true presence of God and salvation. Jesus is the new and final Temple. Crucified, dead, and risen Lord Jesus Christ built a temple of all believers, of the “living stones”(1 Peter, 2, 5), He built the Church that travels through time. The house of God in this world is built of free men and women who can keep faith and hope in themselves, who are able to appreciate the gift of Love they receive and to bestow it themselves. Man is a sanctuary of God, so like God, he cannot be sold or bought.
Again, I ask myself: do I value myself as a sanctuary of God? Do I not sell my heart, exchanging neighbour’s love for money and my own well-being? Am I not selling my dignity for a little power, benefit, or temporary success?
How about you?
Lent is a great opportunity to look at the affairs of our soul and spirit, to remember what a wonderful treasure we have within ourselves and that it needs to be cherished.
Vilija Semetiene OP
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