March 15, 2009

LENT III (B)
Zeal for your house will consume me. Ė John 2: 17
Not all anger is sinful. There is such a thing as righteous anger. Notice, however, the focus is on what is happening to other people, not on what is being said or done to us. In this case, our Lord is protesting not what should be, but what is. It isnít just the crass commercialism going on in the Temple , but the quid-pro-quo mentality it all embodied: the idea that God can be bribed with sacrifices. Godís love cannot be bought or bargained for.
It has been said that people are measured by what angers them. But it also true that we can be measured by what does NOT anger us. True, anger can be dangerous. On the other hand, failure to be angry about something that is genuinely dangerous to the spiritual health of people can be just as reprehensible Ė something that our worship of tolerance has blinded us to.
How is it we do not get angry that there are homeless people in our land of mega-mansions? Or the graphic violence & mindless sex in the media, the corruption of sports? Are we merely disgusted, a feeling that stays within us, or angry, which moves us to action?
Lent, you see, is the churchís official time to get angry enough to overturn old tables & set up new ones. Here are 5 suggestions for doing that:
1) Love things that are worth loving, which does NOT include SUVís or celebrities. The things worth loving are family, faith, God, Jesus & friends, to name just a few.
2) Put first things first. For a Catholic, celebrating the Eucharist on Sunday comes before anything else. Putting a golf outing or a soccer game before that is not a priority. Being present to our children comes before any self-regarding pursuits by a parent.
3) Cultivate spiritual insight. It means looking beyond the superficial realities of our physical world to the ultimate reality behind them all, God. It means seeing others as children of God & treating them accordingly.
4) Strive for integrity of character which means not doing anything that will compromise our integrity. It is the one thing that no one can take from us, but we seem willing to give it away by the bucket full.
5) Enlist in causes that benefit the community & to which one can give oneís loyalty.
There is another twist to this Temple cleansing story. The New Testament speaks of our bodies as being a Temple of the Holy Spirit. This puts the driving out of inappropriate behaviors on a very personal level. Left to our own devices, the odds are against it; but that is where Godís grace comes in. We require His help to lift ourselves out of ourselves for the sake of turning our Temple back into something fitting for ďmy Fatherís house.Ē
Our Lordís zeal would indeed consume Him Ė not only in the sense of an endeavor so passionate that it totally occupies His mind & heart, but also because it is dangerous. What He does provokes conflict, & He will be consumed by the anger of others who profit from the Temple commerce. They will have Him crucified.
The unusual thing for us is that He is willing to risk it. That should be the basis for our hope. The cleansing of our souls is not always pretty or comfortable. Indeed, it can be quite painful at times. What makes it all worth while is that God does not give up on us. AMEN!