3rd Sunday of Lent: Purification of the Temple
“Jesus did not need anyone to testify about human nature, for he knew what was in man.”
Jesus knows what is in the depth of our hearts. St. Augustine says God knows us better than we know ourselves because He is nearer to us than we to ourselves. He is our creator; that is why He knows us better than we know ourselves.
Jesus comes into our hearts today, especially during the Holy Communion, in the same way that, in the Gospel, He enters the Temple in Jerusalem. St. Paul reminds us that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas Aquinas also says that when we are in a state of grace, the Blessed Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – resides in our heart as in a temple.
What will Jesus find in your heart? Will He find “the temple of the Blessed Trinity – the Father’s house – turned into a marketplace”? Will Jesus find “bad business” inside the temple of your heart? When we sin, we exchange God’s gift with things that don’t have value: sensual pleasures, selfish interests, pride. When we exchange the most valuable gem – God’s grace, friendship with God – with things that worth nothing – a passing pleasure, – that is bad business. There is disorder.
St. Josemaria said: “The world, the flesh and the devil are a band of adventurers who take advantage of the weakness of that savage you bear within you, and want you to hand over to them, in exchange for the glittering tinsel of a pleasure — which is worth nothing, — the pure gold and the pearls and the diamonds and rubies drenched in the life— blood of your God Redeemer, which are the price and the treasure of your eternity.” (The Way, 708).
Jesus enters into our hearts. And if He finds disorder there, He will “make a whip of cord” and knock over the tables of our pride, all the animal instincts craving for illicit pleasures and all the bestiality that we carry within. Jesus will purify the temple of our body from all impurities and will restore our hearts as the place of dwelling of the Blessed Trinity. But the question is: Will you allow Jesus to do that? Will you not act like the Jews in the Gospel asking Jesus: “What right have you to do this?” Indeed, on what authority would Jesus intervene in our lives? Jesus has all the rights to do that because He is our creator and redeemer.
Purification of our hearts also means “putting order into chaos”. In the First Reading, when God gave to the Israelites the Ten Commandments through Moses, God was trying to put order into chaos. Our human experience tells us that whenever we see disorder in our things, in our home, in our behavior, we immediately make rules, guidelines and policies. This is also true in our spiritual life: whenever we see disorder in our relationship with God and with our neighbors, let us put order by following God’s commandment of love. St. James in his letter said that one act of charity covers a multitude of sins (Cfr. James 5: 20). One act of love will put order into chaos. Are there lots of disorder and chaos in your life, in your relationships? Put order. Follow the commandment of love.
Lastly, purification of the heart passes through the way of the Cross. Jesus makes “whip of cords” and the Temple was cleansed of defilement. He does the same with us. He allows us to pass through pain and suffering in order to purify us. Sufferings can be a means of purification. “Things that hurt instruct”. We may ask: How can suffering purify our hearts?
St. Paul, in the Second Reading, tells us that the cross is foolishness to the Gentiles, a scandal to the Jews. But “the ‘foolishness’ of God is wiser than humans, and the ‘weakness’ of God is stronger than humans”. The Cross is God’s wisdom and strength – His instrument in purifying us. Suffering and pain “draws us apart from worldly cares and brings us closer to God”. This is God’s wisdom: the only way we can get closer to God is by taking us apart from ourselves, from worldly cares. Pain and suffering – the Cross does this! How do you accept the trials and discomfort of everyday life?
Jesus knows the depths of our hearts better. He knows our defects and impurities and He tries to purify them through the blood of His cross. But He makes us also pass through the way of the cross in order to cleanse us. He knows that we will grow more mature and more intimate with Him if we follow the Via Crucis.
Therefore, let us cooperate with God’s wisdom, with God’s way of purifying our hearts this Lenten season through the practices of sacrifices and self-denial. May the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany us and obtain for us more graces from Her Son. Amen.