Lent 2015: Third Sunday (Cycle B): Home of Prayer, House of Love
"Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle... 'Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father's house into a market... Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days, I will raise it up.' ... he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body." (John 2:13-22)
If we could with our present mind and from some safe vantage point look back in time at the scene in the outer court of the Jerusalem Temple (where the buyers and sellers are exchanging money for those from far away who bring foreign currency, or giving change to those purchasing animals to be sacrificed), we might be reminded of a Stock Exchange or maybe a Winter Fair with its noisy displays of cattle, sheep and birds. It would hardly seem like a church. Not entirely unlike the multiplication of kiosks, boutiques and shops, all geared to tourists that grace our shrines (Lourdes, for example). Yet it was all quite legitimate, like a convenience store for worshippers.
Christ was not simply calling for peace and quiet. He was revolutionizing worship and the whole idea of temple sacrifices. It is not enough to kill animals and offer their blood as a way of purification or appeasement through an external act. We can do that and miss the whole meaning of prayer. A human being is more important than the temple. In fact, a human being is the temple. Christ and the Father make their home in us, says John.
If we are truly temples, as we must believe we are, how are we to treat one another? Surely with reverence before the presence of God.
The body of Christ is a sacrifice of thanksgiving: Eucharist, true worship. We are to worship God in spirit and in truth, with thanksgiving to God always for everything. Jesus' true worship was his life in obedience to the human condition and the plan of God. In preparation for that moment when he would breathe out his life and commend his spirit into the hands of God, Jesus used to go off alone into the hills to pray. Prayer is communion, not with many words and sacrifices of blood, but with presence, love and obedience of heart and spirit, mind and body, and with charity toward our neighbors expressed in justice and in peace.
- When someone visits our house, if we know they are coming, we tidy up, get rid of the garbage and clean the sinks.
- What in me needs cleaning up?
- What needs to be affirmed as true worship?
- If Christ comes to cleanse the temple which I am, what does he ask me to "take out of here"?
Henri Nouwen, writing of the Trinity icon, describes the Trinity as the house of love. There is, as it were, a space among the three, which is love's home. Into this house of love we are baptized. Let us now enter there in peace, live there in love, worship there by thanksgiving. (Henri Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord, Praying With Icons, Ave Maria Press, 1987.)
Mary Alban Bouchard CSJ
This reflection is from Sister Mary Alban Bouchard’s book Until the Son is Risen published by Novalis in 1988 and adapted for the web.