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Dear Followers of the Christ,
On this Third Sunday of Lent, the Church proclaims this familiar gospel from John 2:13-25, the cleansing of the Temple. This gospel invites the disciples to realize that his death and resurrection will become the new temple, that his sacrifice will become worship itself. Here, Jesus is also trying to get the attention of his followers as well as those who sold goods in the Temple. Jesus challenges us to cleanse our perspectives, our motivations and our relationships in order to make room for his presence, his love.
Jesus desires to clear away the obstacles in our hearts so we may be drawn to him alone. In this Lenten season, our Church has traditionally suggested prayer, fasting and almsgiving to help us clear our minds, our hearts and our actions. Lent is a letting go of old patterns of sin and the crusty attitudes that have caused rage and ill will in our lives. Lent is a renewal of all life. In fact, the word “Lent” means springtime. So, what are the obstacles and the corroded patterns of life that need new life, healing and redemption in you? What areas in your heart need to be washed out, cleansed with the miracle of baptism and Jesus’ redeeming presence?
Jesus desires to clean us of sin so we may experience his eternal mercy. I wish I could change people’s attitude toward Lent. Every year, I hear from people how unworthy they feel. I hear folks say that they need to get their act together so that Jesus will love them. This is genuine heresy, and it pops up over and over again. We do not cleanse our own sins. We do not change so that God will love us. Instead, we must allow Jesus to do the changing within us. We must live lives of real prayer so that we are opened up to receive the grace to grow closer to him. There is no whip or cleaning product that Jesus can use to motivate us. What motivates us is that love changes us. A relationship with the Divine invites us into a solid ground of hope, love and fidelity. We have to stop thinking that the more we give up during Lent, the more God will love us. Our actions are not the hinge point for his love. Our actions simply do not change God’s mind about you and about me. Only his love cleanses the human heart so that we may freely love in our world, in every aspect of human life. What in our lives needs cleansing and renewal in him? How is Jesus calling us to start over again?
Jesus desires to reveal his death and resurrection as new hope for the world. In Lent, we are called to experience something new about God. This forms our actions and work in the world. It’s not that our piety, our not eating meat, or saying the Rosary more times, would change the world. What changes the world is when we realize that Jesus comes to us in his death and resurrection and allows us to change through him. If we relied on ourselves, nothing new would happen. We don’t save ourselves. We don’t redeem our own sins. We don’t prepare our way toward heaven. This is God’s actions and not ours to accomplish. God is God and we aren’t. This is the key that opens up our experiences in the Lenten season. This is the mystery of our powerlessness, our profound humility in faith. How is Jesus creating hope in our actions, in our lives and in our opinions toward others?
Jesus desires us to live in him alone. By the time we come to the Lenten season, I always amazed at how we have forgotten last Lent. We have had a year to get even more addicted to pornography, a few more drinks before dinner, a year of second helpings of food, and the ruts we run in trying to care for family and keep a job. We have so much that can take the place of God in our lives. In fact, sometimes, I think it is a national sport to find things to cling to so that we do not have to examine our own hearts. We stuff our closets with more junk we don’t use and fill up our inner spaces with destructive opinions about other people and damaging stories about our own lives. In fact, the Lenten season is meant to clear away the clutter that has covered our hearts, the selfishness, the false pride and the film of hatred on our words. Jesus, after all, even well beyond the Lenten season, desires to live in us as we ache to find our home in him. How can you know that Jesus desires you to live in him? What is he offering you?
God give you peace.
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor