Sunday, 8 March 2015

Cleansing our hearts.

It has long struck me that the Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Lent - about Christ driving the sellers of cattle, sheep and pigeons and the money changers out of the temple (John 2:13-25) is important to our devotion to the heart of Jesus.  The Litany of the Sacred Heart  - the prayer that St John Paul recommended  we pray often - reminds us that the Heart of Jesus is the 'holy temple of God' ( 'Cor Iesu, templum Dei sanctum' ) and 'the tabernacle of the most High' (Cor Iesu, tabernaculum Altissimi ).  Jesus is the temple of God: in a Trinitarian sense it is within this temple in which the Son is united with the Father and Holy Spirit. But, as St. John Paul pointed out in his Angelus address on the Sacred Heart ( 9th June 1985):

'At the same time it is the true dwelling place of God with men' (Rev 21:3) because the heart of Jesus in its interior temple embraces all men. All dwell there, embraced by eternal love..... I have often heard young people sing: 'Do you know that you are a temple". Yes.  We are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in us...' ( John Paul, II, Litany of the Heart of Jesus, number 5) 

Pope Francis took the opportunity at his Angelus message today to remind us of the need for us to look at our heart as a temple. Have a good look: and face up to the fact that we are full dirty old pigeons, sheep and cattle and tables for money changing.  Not the kind of place we would wish as a meeting place with the All Mighty.  Lent is all about allowing Jesus to cleanse our hearts as he cleansed the temple in Jerusalem.

Today’s Gospel presents the episode of the of the expulsion of the merchants from the temple (Jn 2:13-25). Jesus “made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen” (Jn 2:15), the money, everything. Such a gesture gave rise to strong impressions in the people and in the disciples. It clearly appeared as a prophetic gesture, so much so that some of those present asked Jesus: “[But] what sign can you show us for doing this?” (v. 18), who are you to do these things? Show us a sign that you have authority to do them. They are seeking a divine sign, a prodigy that would certify Jesus as being sent by God. And He responded: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). They replied: “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” (v. 20). They had not understood that the Lord was referring to the living temple of His body, that would be destroyed in the death on the Cross, but would be raised on the third day. For this, in “three days.” “When He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken” (v. 22).
In effect, this gesture of Jesus and His prophetic message are fully understood in the light of His Pasch. We have here, according to the evangelist John, the first proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ: His body, destroyed on the Cross by the violence of sin, will become in the Resurrection the universal meeting place between God and men. And the Risen Christ is Himself the universal meeting place – for everyone! – between God and men. For this reason, His humanity is the true temple where God is revealed, speaks, is encountered; and the true worshippers, the true worshippers of God are not only the guardians of the material temple, the keepers of power and of religious knowledge, [but] they are those who worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23).
In this time of Lent we are preparing for the celebration of Easter, when we will renew the promises of our Baptism. Let us travel in the world as Jesus did, and let us make our whole existence a sign of our love for our brothers, especially the weakest and poorest, let us build for God a temple of our lives. And so we make it “encounterable” for those who we find along our journey. If we are witnesses of this living Christ, so many people will encounter Jesus in us, in our witness. But, we ask – and each one of us can ask ourselves – does the Lord feel at home in my life? Do we allow Him to “cleanse” our hearts and to drive out the idols, those attitudes of cupidity, jealousy, worldliness, envy, hatred, those habits of gossiping and tearing down others. Do I allow Him to cleanse all the behaviours that are against God, against our neighbour, and against ourselves, as we heard today in the first Reading? Each one can answer for himself, in the silence of his heart: “Do I allow Jesus to make my heart a little cleaner?” “Oh Father, I fear the rod!” But Jesus never strikes. Jesus cleanses with tenderness, with mercy, with love. Mercy is the His way of cleansing. Let us, each of us, let us allow the Lord to enter with His mercy – not with the whip, no, with His mercy – to cleanse our hearts. The whip of Jesus with us is His mercy. Let us open to Him the gates so that He would make us a little cleaner.
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.

Read here.

Later on, ( in a mass evening celebrated at the parish of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore) Pope Francis repeated his call to open our hearts to the mercy of Jesus.

The Pope said we would do well “to enter into our hearts and to look upon Jesus.”  The Lord, he said, knows that we are sinners – but if we acknowledge that we are sinners, we have no need to be afraid.
Pope Francis also considered Jesus’ action in cleansing the Temple. When we look into our own hearts, he said, we find so many sins: sins of selfishness, pride, envy jealousy. We must open our hearts to Jesus, and ask Him to cleanse our hearts. Jesus, though, does not cleanse our hearts with a whip, as He cleansed the Temple; rather, He purifies our hearts with the “whip” of mercy.
“Open your hearts to the mercy of Jesus!” the Pope said. “And if we open our hearts to the mercy of Jesus, so that He might cleanse our hearts, our souls, Jesus will trust us.”
Read here.

Perhaps it is the Pope's way of saying 'get it !?' So open up your hearts to Jesus - as Jesus opened his heart to us!

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