I Cor. 22-25,
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because
he knew them all, and did not need anyone
to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. (Jn. 2:25)
As we ponder these Scriptures and recall the many names attributed to Jesus: Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God, Jesus the Good Shepherd, Jesus the healer, Jesus the comforter to name only a few. In this Gospel passage from the Gospel of John for this Third Sunday of Lent, we find yet another name we can attribute to Jesus. Jesus, the psychologist. He testified about human nature. He himself understood it well (Jn. 2:25). This gives us much comfort as we continue to embrace the call to conversion of heart knowing that Jesus understands our human nature.
As Jesus continues his journey into public ministry, he sets his face toward Jerusalem where he will carry out most of his ministry. His first act in Jerusalem is the cleansing of the temple. The temple was to serve as the center of worship and praise to God. However, Jesus discovers that the buying and selling of the animals for sacrifice had become a money making opportunity for the merchants. (Not unlike the drug trafficking of our day where the drug barons receive the riches from the buying and selling done by the little people.) In this cleansing episode, Jesus is consumed with Zeal for his Father’s house and the need for the people to understand the importance of the Passover feast.
Fr. Demetrius Dumm notes in his book, The Mystical Portrait of Jesus, “One can imagine that Jesus used the whip of cords to take swipes even at the pillars of the temple for it had become symbolic of a religion that became so rigid and stagnant that it was unable to welcome the God of Change and progress”. (p. 98) Jesus brought a new focus to ritual cleansing—that of moral cleansing, which the Jewish leaders did not understand. They asked for a sign. Jesus replies, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The leaders simply could not understand what Jesus meant, however, many people began to believe in him when they saw the signs. They listened to his work and pondered them in their hearts. This kind of listening is intuitive, springing from the very core of our being; where we are most open to God and most receptive to the Word that God speaks. (Benedict’s Way, p. 30)
The entrance antiphon speaks of this openness and receptivity to the Word of God. “I will pour clean water upon you and cleanse you from all impurities and I will give you a new spirit, says the Lord. Jesus, the psychologist knows our needs. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses our failures and our good deeds. He also knows that we would need guidelines to remain faithful to our Lenten journey. In the reading from the Book of Exodus we have the guidelines, the Ten Commandments, to keep us from falling into sin. These are the benchmarks below which we should not fall. Beyond these guidelines Jesus also teaches us the lesson of complete surrender and total self-giving on the cross.
Fr. Ronald Rolheiser in his book, Sacred Fire stresses that as mature Christians we need to go beyond the benchmarks and move to total surrender. He proposes ten core principles that are invitations to greater holiness and mature discipleship:
1. Live in gratitude and thank your Creator by enjoying life.
2. Be willing to carry more of life’s complexities with empathy.
3. Transform jealousy, anger, bitterness and hatred rather than return them.
4. Let suffering soften your heart
6. Bless more and curse less
7. Live in a more radical sobriety, which means being honest
8. Pray, affectively and liturgically, praying with others and for the world.
9. Be wide in your embrace
10. Stand where you are supposed to be standing and let God provide the rest.
To be responsive to these invitations, we need to develop a spirit of deep,
attentive listening. Christina Baldwin, in her book Seven Whispers: Listening to the Voice of the Spirit uses the metaphor of the telephone to describe the movement of the Spirit. She writes: “The connection is always open: it is our half of the relationship to stay available for incoming calls.” (P.7) The problem is not in sending the calls but in receiving the calls to conversion. If we stay attentive we will gradually learn to decode the Divine Mystery in our daily life experiences. We will recognize the glimmers of hope that the Spirit sends to us daily on our Lenten Journey.
Sister Mary Josephine Torborg, O.S.B.
Associate Professor of Theology
and Religious Studies
The College of St. Scholastica