At the age of 78 Jesuit Father Walter Burghardt began to read the works of a scripture scholar who opened up for him the whole area of biblical justice. He says it was exciting for him because “of biblical justice’s very definition: fidelity to relationships…faithfulness to God, to people, to the earth. Love God above all idols; love every human person as an image of God, touch all God’s nonhuman creation with respect and awe.”
Father Burghardt says that biblical justice demands that we not only love God and others and the earth, we must passionately work against all forms of injustice.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus drove the money changers from the Temple and did it so violently? There is no way around it. Jesus was filled with anger at what was happening in the Temple. He didn’t just wag his finger at the money changers; he didn’t quietly suggest that they move their tables outside on the sidewalk, did he? No! He was passionately and divinely offended at what human beings had done to God’s house. What was passing for worship in the Temple.
Father Burghardt said that it is in the context of the prophetic call to just and loving relationships that we must interpret Jesus’ actions in the Temple today. In the cleansing of the Temple the Son of God was passionately forcing us to hear the Word of God spoken by the prophets generation after generation:
- It is mercy that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea)
- To what purpose do you multiply your sacrifices to me? I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bulls. Bring no more vain oblations; your incense stinks. Your leaders do not give justice to the orphan, nor do they hear the pleas of the widow. (Is. 1:10-15, 23).
- Because they sell the just for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; They trample the backs of the destitute and force the lowly to stand aside in the street. (Amos 2:2)
Over and over again God tells us month of Sundays will not please the him if our lives during the week are not loving and just. When the Word of God himself came to the Temple and found it to be sullied by a liturgy of hypocrisy he cleansed it.
The house of God that Jesus cleans is not merely the Temple of long ago; it is the Temple of our life, our heart; it is the courtyard of our daily living. And Jesus doesn’t just come to do a little dusting and deodorizing. He comes to tear down our idols and make of our heart a house for God.
Pope Francis spoke about opportunity that Lent brings for spring cleaning the temple of our hearts:
Every Eucharist that we celebrate with faith makes us grow as a living temple of the Lord, thanks to the communion with His crucified and risen Body. Jesus recognizes that which is in each of us, and knows well our most ardent desires: that of being inhabited by Him, only by Him. Let us allow Him to enter into our lives, into our families, into our hearts. May Mary most holy, the privileged dwelling place of the Son of God, accompany us and sustain us on the Lenten journey, so that we might be able to rediscover the beauty of the encounter with Christ, the only One Who frees us and saves us.
Sisters and brothers, may I suggest that we ask Jesus to come this week to the temple of our heart? Let’s say to him in prayer, “Lord Jesus, look around. Is there something you see that doesn’t belong here? Is there something that is missing? Lord Jesus, cleanse my heart. Restore it. Make my heart a home for justice and love.