STEPS TO SPIRITUAL HOUSE CLEANSING HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

John 02:13-25, “Christ Cleanses the Temple” | Ezra Commentary

When was the last time you had a thorough house cleaning where you had to reach under the beds and cabinets to remove pieces of dirt that may be hanging in there for months or even years? When was the last time you checked through your pantry and refrigerator to remove spoilt or expired food items? You may like to scan through your stuff and see what needs to go and what deserves to stay; we learn every day.

You would agree that thorough cleaning or discarding unnecessary things from the house could produce a revitalizing and refreshing ambiance. Moreover, you would soon discover that you have more space than the cluttering experience you had before.

In John’s Gospel (2:13-25), our Lord Jesus Christ enters the temple in Jerusalem to clean and tidy up the place from the mess done by people conducting business in the temple. 

The narrative tells us that he made a whip out of cords and drove them out and spilling the coins of the money-changers and overturning their tables; he says, “take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” 

The Significance of the Temple Cleansing

What our Lord did has moral and spiritual implications beyond the mere act of driving the merchants away from the temple. It was usual practice for people to buy the animals they need for sacrifice from the temple. Foreigners and visitors who come to Jerusalem would also exchange their currencies to buy things from the temple merchants.

There is a profound moral and spiritual side to what Jesus did in the temple. First, the temple is a place of prayer, not a business center. Though the merchants were conducting business to aid the temple activities, they could have been greedy about it. Our Lord Jesus could see through their cunning marketplace mentality, which includes lies and cheating. No wonder he says stop making my father’s house a marketplace.

On the spiritual level, the temple refers to every one of us. St. Paul tells us in the First Letter to the Corinthians (3:16-17) that we are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in us. So, if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy the person, for God’s temple is Holy and that we are.

From the spiritual perspective, Jesus entered the lives of the people and discovered how they have messed up God’s temple by disregarding the rules of conduct, also known as the Commandment, that we see in the Book of Exodus (20:1-17). The animals represent sins in their numerous sizes and shapes that have become commercial commodities with destructive exchange rates.

Steps to Spiritual House Cleansing

The activity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the temple leaves us with some productive steps for the cleansing of God’s temple, which we are.

Identifying the mess in our “temples.”

Like in our homes, most of us have no idea that we have so much mess, especially in the hidden and dark corners. Often, we focus on the outer areas presuming that everywhere is clean. When Jesus, our Lord who is light, entered the temple, he revealed the hidden and the dark regions with all sorts of mess. To clean up our lives which is the temple of God, we need to take the time, bend low, and unveil those dark corners. Remember that nothing could be hidden forever (Mark 4:22).

Condemning the evil not Commending

Sometimes we see the evil but end up giving excuses instead of condemning them. Some of us have become professional perfectionists to the point of convincing ourselves and others that our wrongdoings are right in the light of certain conditions according to our selfish evaluations. Our Lord Jesus was straightforward in condemning the ungodly activities in the temple. 

 Overturning the Tables! 

Notice that our Lord Jesus Christ did not waste time acting on the situation. He drove the merchants out and overturned their tables. Inactivity, which is a product of procrastination, is one of the stumbling blocks of our Christian life and growth. Some people would identify the mess, condemn it but would fail to act immediately. 

Often, we think about cleansing ourselves later, and it never comes. Overturning the tables involves an intentional and committed effort to retrace our steps and do things that would be more pleasing to God. Often, we think that our sins are too old to be confessed. The mess in your house does not get better if it gets old. The Book of Isaiah (59:1-2) tells us that unconfessed sins hinder prayers, and the Psalmist (Ps.66:18) says, if I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have heard me.

Moving Forward: Changing our Marketplace Mentality

The marketplace mentality represents excessive self-seeking. It involves thinking about what would be good for oneself now; it is all about material profit and gains at the expense of our eternity. Life is too short; it is even shorter and more unpredictable with all the things happening around us. 

It would not profit anyone to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of one’s soul (Mark 8:36). As we sanitize our hands daily, let us not forget to sanitize the temple of God, that is our souls. The Lenten season is ripe enough for us to reflect on how we are keeping God’s temple clean.

God bless you and have a rewarding week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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