As a young Sister I discovered a wonderful Benedictine woman, St. Gertrude the Great; of whom Our Lord said, “I live in the heart of Gertrude.” For many years my prayer was, “Lord can you say the same of me? I live in the heart of Mary Jane?” Then one day the answer came to me. “Yes, Mary Jane, I do live in your heart, but sometimes it is awfully crowded in here.” It was then I came to realize that much of my heart was focused on the clutter of worldly pleasures, cares and concerns. In place of prayer and communion with God, the spirit of the world dominated the spirit of Christ in me. Many times back then (and sometimes even now) there are things that have no place within the confines of the temple that is my heart. Jesus reminds me that the temple of my heart must be a place where the focus is on God and on those God puts before me to love and to serve.
The image in this Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Lent of the Temple filled with crowds, money changers, animals and birds reminded me of the answer I received from the Lord when I asked if he lived in my heart. The activities for sacrifice surrounding the Temple in Jesus’ time was an assault on the senses much less a place for prayer and worship. This business for the sake of business and not for religion triggered a violent reaction in Jesus. The money changers were not there to do service. Their motivation to be of service was diluted by their manipulative manner. Even today, when a crowd gathers, the souvenir/hawkers and traveling-peddlers swoop down to make a “fast buck.” I recall this to be very true when I visited the holy places in Rome.
On that day the Lord had, indeed, come to his temple to replace the old system of worship with the new and living temple of himself. The divine presence of Jesus in the temple affirmed his special relationship with God which he was willing to share with us as believers, but we often need to be confronted with his cleansing love.
Just as the Jerusalem temple needed to be cleansed of a marketplace, we too, as living temples have to be cleansed of worldly things as St. Paul says, “I live now not I, but Christ lives in me.” Lent reminds us to take measure of ourselves. Lent is our time for repentance and renewal; to confess our failings and allow Christ to sweep away the debris. It is because he is our Savior who rose to life on the third day that we can welcome him. He loves us and claims us. He who knows our hearts and our nature but he also knows our good attempts at holiness along with our failures.
Father James McKarns says, “The Marketplace and the Father’s house lure and tug at every person and we follow one and then the other and often try to compromise on both. Lent is a fitting time to catch a spark from the fiery zeal of our Lord.”
Mary Jane Vigil, OSB