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For Your Weekend: You Are the Temple He Is Fighting For

Mallory Smyth

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 2:1325

Have you ever walked out of a church utterly moved by the worship? What about a church that left you wondering if worship occurred at all? What was each like? How were the two experiences different? 

Last March, my husband and I went to France, and I have recently been reflecting on the trip. We visited many churches there, and while each was special, our experience at Mont St. Michel blew the others out of the water. Here is the comparison.

Mont St. Michel is a stunning monastery built just off the coast of Normandy. Today, it is a tour site and an active monastery. Jared and I learned we could pray with the monks, so we jumped at the chance. A kind nun received us and assertively explained that this was not a tour; it was prayer. She expected reverence. We followed her into a small chapel and entered the timeless prayers of the Church with our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is nothing to be gained from serving God at the top of a remote monastery. There was no glory but the glory of God, and we were consumed with the peace that comes from true worship. 

I could list a handful of the other churches we saw on the trip. Each seemed more beautiful than the next and moved me deeply, but, unlike my experience in Mont St. Michel, every other church appeared to be a museum first and a place of worship second. Crowds beheld the talent and ingenuity of the past but rarely recognized the God in their midst. There was, of course, the opportunity for prayer, but few took it. 

It’s not that I didn’t want tourists there. I did. It’s that my heart burned for them. Did they know God, the One who wants to be near them? Were they aware of the rich inheritance they received? Some did, but many didn’t. They did not see the cathedral as a living house of worship, so they didn’t treat it as such. It was a pretty place with an excellent background for Instagram. 

What I felt leaving those churches was a deep ache for my fellow humans, but it was passing. It didn’t drive me to do anything but talk to my husband. Jesus experienced something similar in the gospels, but His ache ran so deep that it drove Him to do something to wake us up to the reality of God.

In John 2:13-25 Jesus went to the Jewish temple, and the first thing He saw were merchants and money changers who had turned the temple of worship into a place of commerce. Overcome with zeal, Jesus fashioned a whip out of chords. He turned over tables, let animals out of their cages, and drove the merchants away, proclaiming, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace” (John 2:16).

I wonder if, like me, you are uncomfortable with this Jesus. I am comfortable with the Jesus of miracles and healings. I like Jesus the Good Shepherd who leads His sheep. But zealous Jesus who deliberately made a scene? I’m not sure what to make of Him. And yet, my experience in France taught me that true worship is worth fighting for.  

Part of the gospel message is that humans mess things up. We were made to worship God. We were created to magnify Him with our lives, called to offer Him our hearts and obey Him above our preferences. 

The problem is that we would rather glorify ourselves, which leads us to self-worship. And we can use anything, including our faith, for self-gain. Some modern examples are preachers who use their positions to gain extravagant wealth or abuse their positions of authority to harm those under their care. But it isn’t just the powerful; it’s all of us. We all seek to self-serve. 

That’s what Jesus saw at the temple: men who had turned a sacred place into a self-serving endeavor that defiled Jewish law and made a mockery of God.

His heart must have burned as He thought: They have no idea what they are doing! They have no idea what they are missing! They have no idea what God deserves.

He had to wake them up. 

After Jesus drove out the money changers, the Jews asked for a sign of authority. Jesus responded not by speaking of the temple but of His body, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 

Archbishop Fulton Sheen offers a deeper look into Jesus’ response. “The temple is the place where God dwells. You have profaned the old temple, but there is now another Temple. Destroy this new Temple, by crucifying Me, and in three days I shall raise it up. Though you will destroy My Body, which is the house of My Father, by My Resurrection I shall put all nations in possession of the new Temple.”[1]

Do you see the switch? Jesus was signaling change. God would no longer dwell only in temples. Jesus was the new Temple. 

Psalm 69:9 says, “For zeal for thy house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult thee have fallen on me.” Yes, zeal for His Father’s house consumed Jesus so much that He caused a chaotic scene at the temple. But His zeal for your soul drove Him to His death and resurrection. By sacrificing Himself, Jesus also made it possible for you to become God’s temple. On this side of the resurrection, God has chosen to dwell in you.

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 proclaims, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Dear sister, what kind of temple are you? What does Jesus need to overturn or drive out? Where does He need to do some cleansing and reconfiguring? Will you let Him? Jesus is far more zealous for you than He was for the temple. Let that sink in. Open your heart and let Him do the work to make your heart a place of true worship, a beautiful dwelling for your God.

Food for thought or journaling…

Think about how you spend your time and your money. List out some of your habits and thought patterns. Do they help you to magnify God and give Him glory, or do they help you glorify yourself? If you were to let Jesus into these places in your life, how would He want to rearrange them?

Dear Lord, I often don’t feel as though I am loved or lovable. This gospel reading flies in the face of that lie and leads me to the truth. Your love for me drove You to the cross so that You could raise me with You into a new life. Help me to remember that and to embody that truth, and I will continue to go through Lent, longing to be closer to You. Give me the grace to respond to Your love with a zeal to know You better and to bring others to You. Amen. 

[1] Archbishop Fulton Sheen, The Life of Christ (New York: McGraw Hill, 1958), 83.

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