What makes Jesus so angry in the gospel today? Exchanging money to purchase animals for sacrifice at the Temple had been a long-held tradition. “Stop making my father’s house a marketplace,” Jesus says. Jesus was offended by the blatant disregard of the sacred act of offerings to the Holy. Any of us would find ourselves in the same situation if someone we knew was being disrespected.
In reading people’s hearts that day, Jesus was aware that there was an imbalance that had grown like a virus in this activity of the temple. What started out as an act of compassion or mercy for those who traveled a long way and could not bring the sacrifice with them had ended up as a deal making operation. There was bargaining, cheating and manipulation going on. It had become a money-making operation, not an act of service. People came to the temple to praise God and honor God not to bargain with God. John Shea in his commentary says, “Jesus’s father is not a dealmaker. He does not exchange favors for sacrifices. God is a free flow of spiritual life and love that cannot be bought, bartered, bargained, or bribed.” God blesses us because God wants to, not because we have done something for God first. I’m sure Jesus was also disappointed because after all his instructing, they had not grasped God’s unconditional love for them!
If you give God something you expect something in return. Humans just happen to be wired that way. Thus, even today, if we pray hard enough or if we give up something big enough for Lent, we expect that God will do something for us. We continue to try to bargain with God. Lent is about getting rid of that attitude in our life that blocks us from experiencing the free flow of grace that draws us closer to our God. Lent is about moving inwardly to check our relationship with the Beloved. How have I drawn closer to the Beloved this year? Lent is about taking time to sit in God’s presence with hearts full of gratitude. Lent is about metanoia. It is about changing our previous attitudes of quid pro quo and opening our hearts to the mysterious flow of grace and love.