3rd Sunday of Lent – Temples of the Spirit
John’s Gospel, which we’ll have for the next three Sundays, is not straightforward like Matthew, Mark and Luke, but is a dense mosaic of images and symbolism. ‘John draws out for his readers the implications for them of coming to faith in Jesus the risen Lord,’ – Sean Goan, THE SIGN, p.9. It was put together some eighty or ninety years after the death of Jesus and represents a long re-think about him. Each generation of believers must figure out for itself the meaning of Jesus and his life, death and resurrection. The Church has been in that mode since the end of World War Two and, despite pockets of resistance from some rigid and static believers, Pope Francis is leading the Church of the 21st century to a more up-to-date understanding of the Faith.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we find Jesus creating a monumental rumpus in the temple as the Passover, the biggest feast of the Jewish year, was about to start. ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market’ he ordered, as cattle, sheep, money, tables and pigeon-sellers were all thrown out the door. Why? The commentators say that it wasn’t because Jesus was against selling things and changing money in the temple. The buying and selling and money-changing were legitimate and useful activities: animals were needed for religious sacrifice, and Jews of the diaspora who came to the Passover from afar with foreign money would have needed Jewish coins in the temple. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the significance of the temple and its sacrifices as ways of being connected with God were radically changed, abolished and transcended. It was only later, when he rose from the dead, that his disciples grasped meaning and significance of what he did that day – John 2, 22.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the temple as the dwelling place of God on earth would no longer mean anything. Jesus would be the new temple and the new high-priest who connects us with God. Paul would tell the Corinthians that their very bodies were the temples of God’s Holy Spirit – 1 Cor 6, 19. And he reminded the Ephesians that Christ lives in their hearts through faith – Eph 3, 17. Faith is more an activity of the heart than of the head. ‘Believing in Jesus,’ writes Sean Goan, ‘ means having a relationship with him, that is to say, coming to a personal experience of him, through our own hearing of his word’ – THE SIGN, p. 49. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the time was almost here when God would be worshipped not in any temple but in ‘spirit and truth’ – John 4, 24.
The Spirit respects our human situation and leads us to encounter Christ by working through our faculties and emotions, through our world and through the people we live and work with. We can be touched by the Spirit when we sit contemplatively by the sea or a lake, muse over a poem, be touched by music (1), or when we walk in woodland or on the hills. Deep peace, new energy and a surge of creativity can be the work of the Holy Spirit. The process of faith-sharing with others often leads to a flash of Spirit-inspired insight and zest that springs from the wisdom and experience of others’ lives. The Spirit frequently works through coincidences. These and other experiences of our basic humanity such as compassion, solidarity, celebration and laughter are glancing touches of the Spirit who leads us into the deep mystery of Jesus. ‘Learn to trust and draw forth your own deepest experience and you will know the Christ all day and every day’ – Richard Rohr, THE UNIVERSAL CHRIST, p. 53. cf. Donal Dorr, A CREED FOR TODAY, chapter 16.
Fr. QQ – 3/3/2021
(1) – Do you have a favourite piece of Spirit music’? How about the piano and cello composition, Spiegel im Spiegel, by the Estonian composer Arvo Part? Switch off, listen, relax and enjoy….