Lenten weekly reflection for March 7, third Sunday of Lent: Can we cleanse the Temple once again?

 

Gospel: John 2:13-25

Before you read this reflection, please spend some more time with the reading from the Gospel of John.

It is a powerful, compelling passage. For a very long time, I had not quite understood it. I had not liked the idea of an angry Jesus. It sounded too much like the God of wrath and thunder that my parents had grown up with. I was much more comfortable with gentler images of Jesus like the ones of him with the little kids or the lost sheep. That Jesus seemed rather… chill!

Yet, here we are, on the third Sunday of Lent, presented with Jesus’s anger. Not just his anger; his outright rage, indignation and fury.

It was at a women’s retreat in British Columbia that a young Catholic missionary offered me an insight into why Jesus was angry: it was because people got in the way of God and what He loved.

Wow! Let’s read that one more time: because people got in the way of God.

You had to buy your way into a sacrifice at the Temple. If you were rich, you could buy the offering of an ox or a sheep. But what if you were too poor? You were kept out. You just did not have the right.

Given how he reacted to that situation, I think Jesus would have a lot to say about our current economic system, which exists on the exploitation of human beings (labour) and the Earth (natural resources). As they were in Jerusalem, the poor, particularly those from the Global South, are still “kept out” by our greed. We who live in North America benefit daily from global systems that let us live lives of plenty at their cost. Nor are these exploitative patterns limited to faraway places. Here in Canada, we can see how “progress” and “development” come at a high cost to First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities.

This is why many young people today live through ecological grief, as we deal with the consequences of the choices and actions of those who have gone before us.

Forgive us our quiet rage, our frustration, our anger and our pain as we look at a world in disarray.

Even as we grieve, we, the young people of the world, are calling for systems to change. We are learning to centre the voices of those most affected by climate change; habitat and species decline; and the loss of land-based knowledge in conversations about their lives, homes and communities.

Do not curb the work of the spirit within us as we thus boldly and bravely build new worlds.

If you are a young person, I hope you continue listening to the spirit of God moving within you, pursuing you and calling you to fight for justice.

If you are one of our elders, I will challenge you by asking whether you are creating space for young people. In your church, community, ministry and family, do the youth feel like they belong? How will you support, encourage and empower them to be the light that this world needs?

May God’s spirit lead and guide us to build places of refuge and hope in this broken and beloved world. On our own, we are nothing; but with Christ and each other, we can mend the brokenness of our systems and institutions, so that all may live as God’s children and share in the blessings of His good Earth.

Amen.