“Don’t you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Co. 3:16) Three times St. Paul declares in his letters to the Corinthians that we are God’s temple, or that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Co. 6:19, 2 Co. 6:18)
In connection with the Jerusalem temple, all four gospels relate the story of Jesus clearing the temple courts of cattle, sheep and doves, and the people selling them. He said, “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” He made a whip out of cords and drove them from the temple, overturning the tables of the money changers. He said, “It is written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of thieves.” (John 2:14-17; Mt. 21:12-13)
Obviously, Jesus felt passionately about upholding the sacredness of God’s temple, and he was compelled to clear it of anything that detracted from that sacredness. If, as St. Paul says, we are a temple of the living God, then there may be things that need to be cleared from our lives in order to maintain the sacredness of our temple.
Like many a building, have we allowed things to accumulate that get in the way of our relationship with God? Perhaps bitterness and unforgiveness; maybe an addiction to alcohol, opioids or pornography? Have we allowed work or some other activity to become an idol detracting from our responsibilities to family and others?
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 get ahold of the material to 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. For the sake of convenience, do we allow our busyness 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 required.
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!
As Lent begins this week, does your temple need some cleaning?