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A Holy Mess
Third Sunday of Lent
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.
Opening Prayer: Oh my Jesus, what a mess I find myself in sometimes! You understand the weakness of my human nature and why things can be in disarray. Please come to me in this Gospel and help me encounter your cleansing mercy.
- A Holy Mess Made Clean: It must have been difficult for Jesus to enter the temple and see all that was not as his Father intended it to be. Imagine the chaos as Jesus flipped over tables, brandished a whip, and angrily ordered the money changers to leave. People and animals scattered. As the tables turned over, coins rolled to the ground and people climbed over each other to pick them up. The disciples observed the pandemonium, their mouths probably gaping open. What a mess! But a necessary mess—even a holy mess. With the same vigor, Jesus wants to cleanse the areas of our lives that are not as God intended them to be. Lent is a time wisely set aside by the Church for detaching from whatever is holding us back. We can cooperate with God’s grace by proactively examining our actions each day to determine if we are doing anything out of sync with God’s intentions. We take what we find to Jesus, who generously cleanses us through the sacrament of reconciliation. May we approach Jesus with trust and faith, as did the leper who approached Jesus saying, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2).
- Cleaning the Body: Christ was speaking of his body when he told the crowd that he would restore the temple in three days. As members of his Church, we make up the body of Christ: “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). His temple is his body, which is the Church; each one of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul exhorts us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). When we allow Jesus to cleanse us of our sins, we are recognizing that while we are individually restored, the larger body of Christ is also cleansed. Indeed, we do not belong to ourselves, but to our Father. We are his temple; may we allow Christ to cleanse us.
- Human Nature: Jesus knows all about our broken human nature: “He himself understood it well” (John 2:25). God the Father created us in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:27), the imago Dei. Unfortunately, our first parents, Adam and Eve, ate of the tree of knowledge and created our very first mess. We were meant to be conformed to God’s nature, but sin entered the world and changed our human nature. The Catechism teaches, “By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state…As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called ‘concupiscence’)” (CCC 404, 418). Christ knew that human nature had become distorted and his mission was to restore our fallen human nature back to the imago Dei. Christ is fully God and fully man; he assumed our human nature in order to unite it to his own divine nature, raising it to the dignity that God intended for it.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I am sorry for letting emotional or spiritual messes get out of hand, or trying to fix them without asking for your help. Thank you for all the times that you have put my life back in order. Help me to trust in you and examine the parts of my life that are not in complete accord with God the Father’s holy will. May my life be rightly ordered to give you praise and glorify you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my conscience and bring all the messes I find to you for healing.
For Further Reflection: Read Psalm 51, and then read this commentary from The Catholic World Report: Psalm 51: Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon.
Written by Carey Boyzuck.
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