“Jesus made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area…” (John 2:15)
When I was a kid, “The Incredible Hulk” had TV series and during the opening credits. Dr. Bruce Banner, who morphs into the Hulk when angry, famously tells a reporter: “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” My father liked to use that line when we were growing up whenever we started misbehaving. Anger in and of itself is not sinful. When that anger turns to rage and we resolve to hurt others and become vengeful and spiteful is when we start descending down the slippery slope of sin. We see Jesus in today’s gospel get angry when he encounters his Father’s house filled with merchants and moneychangers. He who never sinned makes a whip and casts them out. The Jews are baffled by this action and as always ask for a sign to justify Jesus’ actions. Jesus tells them to destroy the temple and watch him rebuild it in three days. Obviously, we know, as St. John clues us in, that he was talking about the temple of his body which would be destroyed and raised up in three days.
The catch here is that Jesus is not only alluding to the temple of his body but to the temple of our body as well. St. Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, but we desecrate that temple whenever we fall into sin. Just as he purified the actual temple in the gospel, he stands ready to purify the temple of our bodies. He stands ready to enter our hearts and drive out all sin, evil, vices, addictions, and any darkness that impedes us from being living temples of the Holy Spirit. The problem is that Christ won’t force his way into our hearts for he gave us free will. We have to open the doors of our hearts and prepare to be totally transformed by his merciful love because when Christ cleans house…he cleans house! Another problem is that we may want Christ to purify certain areas of our lives, but we may want to stay attached to a certain vice, a certain sin that we fall back on. This cannot be the case for us during Lent. If we are going to let Christ purify our hearts then what occurs in us has to be a radical and complete transformation. It has to be the type of change that people notice and ask: “Why are you so joyful? Why are you at peace? What changed?” Well, what changed is that when we hand over the keys to our lives to Jesus and let him be the guide, then our lives change dramatically. We do become living temples of the Holy Spirit. Christ wants to destroy the frail temples that we are carrying around now and raise up something worthy and acceptable to present to his Father. Again, he won’t force the issue. We have to let him in. We cannot be the same person on Easter Sunday that we were on Ash Wednesday. If that happens, then what was the point of Lent? May the glorious morning light of Easter Sunday find us completely transformed and ready to rise with the Lord to a new and more abundant life.