By Barbara Wheeler, U.S. Catholic Mission Association Staff and Former Vincentian Service Corps Volunteer
For people who know what it means to live in community, this Gospel can come as a relief. Even Jesus got angry. It is good to know that our God is not saccharine or sentimental; this is a real person who knows what it is like to feel anger.
I have noticed that when I am friends with someone, I slowly begin to feel the way they feel about certain things. I know how certain situations will bother them and I know how other circumstances will make them happy. And the closer you grow with a person, you become not only aware of how they react to certain situations and people – you begin to feel the same way. Perhaps you never even noticed a certain noise before, and after this friendship, you share their annoyance at that same noise. Perhaps you never cared about a certain kind of music, but after this friendship, you begin to listen to it in a different way. In a good friendship where both people work to build each other up, this empathy can bring people closer and lead them to discover new aspects about the world around them.
So it is, I think, with our relationship with God. It is worth asking – what made Jesus so angry in the temple? Can we find ourselves angry at the same things that cause him to be angry: are we made angry by unjust treatment of others, at turning a place of worship and prayer into a place of trade and cheating others? There are other places in the Gospel where Jesus shows emotion. To the rich young man, Jesus, “looked at him and loved him.” Later, Jesus weeps for Jerusalem. What can we learn about who God is from such reactions?
The Father of the Church, St. Athanasius, said, “God became man so that man can become God.” Being a Christian is not simply following a set of rules or an ethical choice, though those are part of it. What does it mean to conform our lives to Christ, to respond to everything the way he responds to the world? In a particular way this Lent, how are you called to respond to the injustices in the world? There are many responses possible, but perhaps it begins with looking at the Gospel and asking ourselves to begin to see the world the way Christ sees it.
Focus on the Four Pillars:
Spirituality: For this week’s prayer time, you will need a few supplies. Grab a bowl and a handful of beans. Begin your prayer time as you usually do, presenting your personal needs to God. With every prayer, drop a bean into the bowl. When you run out of your usual prayers, pray for the needs of communities around the world. Keep going until you’ve placed all your beans in the bowl. This method of prayer will stretch you to move outside your own needs and pray for others also.
Social Justice: What social justice issues are you most passionate about? Take time this week to dig deeper into one of those issues. Read through Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching to understand the faith perspective on the issue, and find out if there is legislation supporting these concerns. Reach out to your members of Congress to share your opinions on the matter.
Simple Living: Today’s Gospel shows us how Jesus reacted when he entered the Temple, take a few minutes to think about how Jesus would assess your own home? Is it a welcoming space? Are you making good use of your resources? Do you have belongings that might better serve someone in need? Identify three things that you can change – either by fixing it, cleaning it, or donating it to someone who has a greater need for it.
Community: This week, as you gather with your community, take some time to discuss the brokenness you see in your neighborhood. Find ways that you can be a source of healing and service to those in living in poverty. Agree on one community service project that you will take up during this Lenten season.
This reflection is part of our Lenten series - download the entire reflection guide here.