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A Cleansing of the Heart

A Cleansing of the Heart

March 7, 2021

Chapter Talk – Third Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2021 – cycle-B

As we reflect on the gospel account from John’s gospel of Jesus throwing out the money changers from the temple, let us ponder: what horizon is Jesus living from?  How would you describe it?  And then, what about the horizon of the money changers?  What are they living from in their encounter with Jesus?  As we reflect on these questions we might also ponder: what is a true house of God?  What is true worship?  In this encounter of Jesus with the money changers in the temple, is it more about law or is it rather about the heart? 

Pope Benedict XVI writes: “Jesus himself is the new Temple of humanity.  The crucifixion of Jesus is at the same time the destruction of the old Temple.  With his Resurrection, a new way of worshipping begins, no longer on this or that mountain, but ‘in spirit and truth’” (Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week, p.22).  Here in these words, we get a perspective of Jesus’ heart and mind: our worship and prayer are to be rooted ‘in spirit and truth’, not one or the other but both: spirit, the whole of our deepest spirit, and in truth, the truth that is of God and our true Self.

What about Jesus’ ‘zeal’?  ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’.  Pope Benedict XVI says this:

“…Zeal for God’s house leads Jesus to the Passion, to the Cross.  This is the fundamental transformation that Jesus brought to the theme of zeal—zelos.  The ‘zeal’ that would serve God through violence he transformed into the zeal of the Cross.  Thus he definitely established the criterion for true zeal—the zeal of self-giving love” (p.22).  To worship in ‘spirit and truth’ opens the heart to the ‘zeal’ of self-giving love.  The ‘money changers’ are dealing solely with themselves and their fixation on profit.  This activity does not belong in the house of God and the resonances from their activity describes the condition of the money changers’ heart and perspective.

Does not this encounter in the temple invite us to pause and remember this teaching from St. Paul: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?…The temple of God is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Co 3: 16-17).  Jesus is pointing to the temple that we each are.  If we place our gaze interiorly, what is the state of the inner temple of our heart?  How often do we have the noise of selfish interests first and refuse the ‘dying’ that is asked in order to open the heart into genuine self-giving?  We need the presence of Christ to help us cleanse the ego of its self-will and selfish demands that forgets whom and what we are to serve.

Pope Benedict adds: “This is the true cleansing of the Temple.  Jesus does not come as a destroyer.  He does not come bearing the sword of a revolutionary.  He comes with the gift of healing….He reveals God as the one who loves and his power as the power of love” (p.23).  This is the Presence we need within to cleanse the inner temple of the heart and transform its selfish ungodly ways. The kingdom of God has arrived with Jesus, a kingdom of healing love, unconditional mercy and forgiveness, peace found through suffering, through losing our selfish selves for the new life in Christ.  In Mark’s gospel, as I mentioned in another talk, Jesus’ first words after his baptism and the temptations are these: ‘Repent, the kingdom of God has arrived’ (Mk 1:).  Repentance, this turning, a daily task, is what cleanses the temple of the heart.  Turning from turns us toward God.  Repentance, this turning from, is a moment of encounter where we re-find ourselves in the Divine Presence and are given the grace needed to be faithful followers, dedicated to the gospel way.  This turning brings God back into the center, it roots us in the eternal ground of life and love.

Pope Francis in his Angelus talk said: “Zeal for the Father and for his house will lead Jesus all the way to the Cross: his is the zeal of love which leads to self-sacrifice…” (March 4, 2018).  Let us then turn from the zeal of bitterness and egotism to the ‘zeal of love’, which alone will cleanse the inner sanctuary of our lives.  Indeed then our worship and our everyday lives will be lived ‘in spirit and truth’.

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess










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