I. The word, “detox,” has found new meaning in recent years. Whether with green tea, or products such as “Almighty Cleanse” or “OxyFlush,” a well-designed detox can clear our body of any impurity or pollutant.
Today’s gospel describes something of an “Almighty Cleanse”: Jesus clearing the temple of money-changers and livestock. The sheep, oxen, and doves in a sacred space was not the problem. What pushes Jesus over the edge was that the merchants were selling these necessities of worship at exorbitant prices, ripping off and exploiting the poor. Jesus uses the occasion to not only cleanse the temple, but to relocate it, redefine it. In Jesus, we no longer need to travel to a sacred site to meet God, because Jesus himself is the new temple, the place where God and humanity meet. From now on, the preeminent place of encounter with God, the temple, is he himself.
II. Jesus has entrusted us with his “scandalous” legacy, making us the bearers of his divine presence, temples of his Spirit. The Second Vatican Council, in the document, Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), affirms God’s presence and action within:
We have in our heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of humankind…Conscience is our most secret core and sanctuary. There we are alone with God, whose voice echoes in our depths.
Encounters with others can be encounters with God.
III. Prior to any knowledge of it, we were created in the image of God, imprinted with God’s image at our very depths. At Lent, we hit the reset button, refreshing and renewing our covenant relationship with God. We cleanse—“detoxify”—our bodies and our hearts: those sanctuaries where God and humanity meet. Being active and deliberate in our love of God, practicing justice and caring for our neighbor, is the conduct appropriate for one who is privileged to be so related to God. In doing so, we ourselves become the Body of Christ, the temple of God’s Spirit, the preeminent place of encounter with Christ. This, in the words of St. Paul, may be a “stumbling block” to some, and “foolishness” to others. But, to those who are called, to us, it is the power and wisdom of God.