Third Sunday of Lent
The gospel scene depicts an angry Jesus with a whip in his hand. This image of Jesus doesn’t sit well with the traditional image of a meek and smiling Jesus. It seems to be so out of character with what we know of Jesus from the rest of the gospels, that we might be tempted to dismiss it. It shows us that there was another side to Jesus’ character. Of course, Jesus was gentle. But that doesn’t mean he was weak. When the occasion demanded it he could be very strong and assertive.
Still, it comes as a shock to see Jesus not just angry, but furious, and to see him resort to what looks like a form of violence. We may have been taught that all anger is sinful, but, in itself, anger is just a feeling, and, as such, is not good or bad morally.
It’s true that anger is a dangerous thing and can result in us saying or doing things we later regret. But anger can also be a good thing. It can spur us to put something right that is blatantly wrong. There are times when we ought to be angry. An unjust situation should make us angry. Anger can be an expression of love.
We have to look at the things that make anger. It is said that you can measure the size of a persons soul by the size of the things that make him angry. Most of our anger is motivated by self interest and we get angry over petty things.
A man lived on the outskirts of a village. About thirty feet from his house a large lime tree grew. The tree was something of a village landmark. However, it was getting old. It was clearly only a matter of time before it came crashing down. Every time there was a storm the man feared for his house and his life. One day, unable to bear the strain any longer, he cut the tree down. He felt sure the villagers would understand, but he was wrong.
‘Shame on you for cutting down such a splendid tree; said one. ‘You have deprived the village of part os it’s heritage,’ said another.
It’s amazing how worked up people get when their own interests are threatened, but how few get worked up when it’s their neighbour’s interests that are threatened.
Jesus did not get angry on his own account. His anger resulted from his love of God and his neighbour. His action in the temple is seen as a protest against the commercialization of religion and the desecration of the temple.
And rightfully so.
In today’s world, no one is desecrating our church buildings, there are laws against that. But what we see is a pressure for us to suppress our religion in daily life. Along with this pressure is a commercial media that tries to distract us at every turn in hopes that we over indulge in consumption of goods.
In a sense, the worldly powers would like us to desecrate our inner temple.
The season a lent reminds us of this, and encourages us to be mindful of over indulgences and be prayerful so that at Easter we can say to God “yes” I have protected my inner temple from the things in this world that are temptations, things that are not for God but against Him.
May the Lord help us to make this lent a time of inner cleansing and a time to become closer to God in spite of our busy lives and distractions of all sorts.
May God bless you all, Amen.