A chaotic scene
Jesus must have looked like a crazy man on his angry rampage through the Temple, a place crammed with people due to the upcoming Passover.
And he most likely created chaos. Just picture the stampeding cattle, sheep, and merchants trying to get the hell away from this angry man, with broken tables and lots of loose change underfoot. Jesus made a mess in a sacred space. He created a scene.
But it was worth it to him. There were people and merchandise in the Temple that needed to be thrown out. Buying and selling had no place in a house of worship, Jesus thought. So he stormed the temple, crashed into the merchants and customers, and said basically, “Get your crap out of here!”
We all have things in our own lives that need to be thrown away, cleaned out, overturned, things that come between us and God. And sometimes when we clean out our closets, both literally and figuratively, we have to create a huge mess before getting things back into order.
We first scatter our clothes all over the bedroom floors before reorganizing shirts, skirts, and ties according to color, style, or whatever. We first collapse into weeks of self-doubt and loneliness before experiencing the freedom that comes from finally giving up an unhealthy relationship.
Today’s Gospel is a powerful reminder that “cleaning house,” albeit necessary and healthy in the end, can be a messy ordeal.
God gets rid of it
Sometimes we aren’t strong enough or convinced enough to “clean house” on our own, so others have to take over and force us to do some throwing away.
When he was little, my brother would wear his jeans out to the point that they developed huge holes at the knees, even though they had been patched multiple times. On several occasions, the time would come when Mom would just have to trash them. My brother hadn’t even noticed the holes and could care less, for that matter. But it was time for the jeans to go. And somebody else, besides my brother, had to take the initiative to throw them away.
In the same way, God sends us friends who encourage us to stop smoking, family members who encourage us to get off of our butts and find better jobs, mentors who encourage us to take stock of the way we pray.
In the “throwing out” of our unhealthy behaviors, our jealousy, our fickleness, our laziness, it is God who initiates. God crashes into our lives and overturns the harmful behaviors we exhibit.
In the first reading, God offered the Ten Commandments to the Israelites because God knew they needed some guidance in living a good life. God sent Jesus to humanity because he knew we needed a Savior. God initiated the chaos of the Cross because there was evil in the world that needed to be overturned and cast out.
Today’s Gospel, concluding with Jesus’ cryptic promise to “raise up the Temple in three days,” is a hopeful reminder that when we are receptive to God’s inconvenient crashings in on our lives, there is hope, new life, and good things on the other side.
Chaos? Bring it on.