Restoring the Sacred

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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3rd Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospel of John 2:13-25

Meditation Reflection:

Is nothing sacred? That’s how it feels sometimes in our culture.  From the vulgarity prevalent in speech, the disappearance of courteous manners, and the dissolution of Sunday rest, to the dismantling of laws which protect the rights of the unborn, the promotion of euthanasia, and the disrespect for the institution of marriage – nothing seems off-limits.

Jesus felt the same way in this Gospel passage.  He acted in outrage at the disrespect shown to the most sacred place on earth.  The Temple in Jerusalem was where God’s unique and immanent presence had dwelt.  God’s presence had been upon the Ark of the Covenant since the time of the Exodus and remained in the Temple from the time of King Solomon to the Babylonian Exile.  The Lord had promised Solomon:

“Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon, ‘Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my ordinances and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.’”  I Kings 6:11-13

Upon finishing the Temple and dedicating it to the Lord, the priests placed the Ark in the center of the Temple in the Holy of Holies.  God, true to His word, dwelt there.

“And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.” I Kings 8:10-11

This did not mean the Israelites thought the Ark could “contain” God, who is transcendent and infinite.  It was nevertheless, His immanent and particular presence. Unfortunately, over time they abused their relationship with God.  On the one hand, they knew with God in their midst no one could defeat them, and this is admirable faith.  However, over time they spiraled downward in their sins and so payed lip service to God, expecting Him to maintain His protection over them, while at the same time living in defiance of His laws. 

After much prodding by God through His prophets for their words and actions to align, the people remained obstinate, so God took His presence from the Temple (Ezekiel 10) and left them to their own devices.  They were quickly conquered by the Babylonians and exiled.  In the same way, when we refuse Christ’s grace and mercy, ignoring His calls to conversion, we find ourselves overcome by our sin and feeling exiled from the comfort of God’s peace.

Eventually the Jews were allowed to return and rebuild the Temple.  Although it became a place to offer sacrifice again, God’s immanent presence upon the Temple had not yet returned.  When He finally did enter the temple, it wasn’t as a cloud descending.  Rather, far beyond expectation or imagination, God’s presence returned in His incarnate Son!

Unfortunately on this day that God came to the Temple, He found shady business transactions where there should have been reverent preparation for prayer.  He’d had enough and kicked them out. 

After His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus established His ongoing immanent presence in the Temple of His followers through Baptism and nourishes those followers with His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Let’s not become too complacent in our faith, but rather live as if we are in the presence of God – because we are.

Consider:

  • Like the Israelites, it’s easy for us to begin taking God’s gifts and presence for granted.  In what areas has reverence for God slipped a bit in your life? What “tables” would Jesus overturn if He spent the day with you?  How might you restore sacredness there?
  • Are there areas of your life where you pay lip service to God? What habits do you persist in that don’t correspond to God’s ways?
  • How might you live more authentically as a baptized Christian – a Temple of Holy Spirit, a Light of Christ, a child of God?
    • In the media you consume
    • In the work you do
    • In your friendships
    • In your prayer life
    • In your priorities and goals

Practical Application:

  • Take concrete steps to restore the sacred in one area of your life. 
    • Arrive at Mass 5 minutes early, or read the Scriptures ahead of time so you can better prepare
    • Delete any social media accounts, music, or channels that are inconsistent with your Christian calling
    • Make a plan as to how you will avoid break room gossip or crude jokes
    • Develop greater sensitivity toward the dignity of life by contacting your local crisis pregnancy center or nursing home and helping them with a need
    • Restore the sacred in your marriage by doing something intentional to deepen your relationship and show your appreciation, cut out habits of disrespect.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

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