“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Mt. 21:13)
All four gospels relate the story of Jesus going up to Jerusalem at Passover and clearing the temple courts of cattle, sheep and doves and the people selling them and exchanging money. Obviously, he felt passionate about protecting the sacredness of God’s temple, and he was compelled to clear it of anything that detracted from that sacredness.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen in his book, Life of Christ, observes that it was naturally a problem for people who came to the temple to offer sacrifice to get ahold of the material of sacrifice. Accordingly, a flourishing trade in sacrificial animals gradually developed closer to the temple and, for the sake of convenience, eventually moved inside the temple courts.
Three different times in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, he declares that we are God’s temple or that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Co. 3:16) If, as St. Paul says, we are a temple of the living God, then there may be things that need to be cleaned out from our lives in order to maintain the sacredness of our temple.
Like many a building or structure, we may have allowed things to accumulate that get in the way of our relationship with God. Perhaps we have allowed anger, bitterness and unforgiveness to take up some of our space; maybe an addiction to opioids or pornography? Have we allowed work or some other activity to become an idol detracting from our responsibilities to family and others? Have we allowed our busyness and other activities to get in the way of a regular time of prayer with the Lord each day?
When I was young, I remember my mother doing “spring cleaning” every April. She would take down our lace curtains to clean and stretch them, wash the windows and thoroughly clean the whole house. My father would clean out the garage and basement of things that had accumulated over the winter.
Similarly, we may need to do a periodic cleaning of our temple of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it may require just a good vacuuming or a little dusting; other times, a junk removal service may be needed.
We can be confident that Jesus, who is experienced in clearing temples of things that don’t belong, will assist us in making our lives a fitting residence for the Holy Spirit and the presence of God!
What needs to be cleaned from your temple?