In one of the more memorable scenes in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” Ricky (Will Ferrell), his family and best friend (John C. Reilly) discuss their favorite versions of Jesus, which include Baby Jesus, Ninja Jesus and Jesus as frontman for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
As laughable as the sequence is, most of us can name our own Favorite Jesus, looking to moments in his life that most resonate with us. For some, his response to the woman caught in adultery is particularly moving. For others, Jesus as storyteller or sharer of parables comes to mind. There are surely some who would even point to his passion and death given the way it encapsulates his identifying with our weaknesses and humanity.
I would imagine that driving money changers from the temple is often overlooked in “Jesus’s Greatest Hits” compilations. It can feel off-putting and even frightening to consider the Prince of Peace, the one who brought mercy and comfort to the afflicted, overturning tables and cracking a whip in righteous anger.
Personally, this story has been intriguing to me since my time in Peru with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. One year, fellow volunteers and I were tasked with carrying one of many religious statues in a procession for the Feasts of Saint Peter and Paul. Our figurine was temple-scouring Jesus. This led me to examine another angle of this endlessly fascinating figure, the one who writer Garry Wills illustrated as having “the future in his eyes…paradoxically calming and provoking.”
But how can we relate the more obviously impassioned side of Jesus to our own lives?
Throughout Lent, I have been reading Father Robert Barron’s daily reflections on the Lenten journey and the Christian life in general. Regarding Jesus’s cleansing of the temple, he explained, “God’s anger is not God’s emotional temper tantrum; it is the divine passion to set things right. Sometimes when things get too bad, they just have to be cleaned out. Remedies and halfway measures don’t work: a thorough cleansing is called for.”
Barron goes on to equate this dramatic clean-up with the more trying moments in life, e.g. the breakdown of a marriage, an illness, death in the family or lost job. We rarely enjoy or choose these, but in the grand scheme, difficult circumstances have considerable potential to lead to growth or a necessary reorientation that otherwise might not have been possible.
Where in our lives might God be looking to make consequential changes today?