Monday, March 20, 2006

Dr. D'Ambrosio on "Commandments and Cleansing"

From Catholic Exchange
But what began with heartfelt zeal ultimately became ritual routine. The code of the covenant had called for animal sacrifices and a special place to carry them out. The devotion of David desired a fitting place for God’s house. The resourcefulness of his shrewd son Solomon made the dream a reality. After the Babylonians destroyed it, it was rebuilt in tears, a shadow of its former self. Then a powerful king came along who saw an opportunity to make the temple once again the pride of God’s people. He rebuilt it in even greater glory. But it was more a monument to himself than to God. After all, he cared little for God, and was not even himself a full-blooded Jew. He was rather a cold-blooded murderer whose name will forever live in infamy — Herod the Great.

How about the religious leaders of Herod’s day? Religion had become for them a business. Animals were needed for sacrifice, so they were sold in the temple precincts. Hebrew shekels were needed for the payment of the temple tax, hence moneychangers were conveniently available so people could exchange their Roman money for the appropriate Jewish coinage.

The prophet Malachi (3:1-5) had predicted that the Lord would suddenly come to His temple to deal with such things. And Zechariah (14:21) had foretold that on the day of the Lord, there would no longer be any merchant in the temple precincts.

So when Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables, He was fulfilling Scripture and making clear that the messianic time of fulfillment was at hand. No more business as usual. No more ho-hum approach to religion. It was now time for living faith, not just religious belief. Zeal for God’s house consumed Him, and He had come to light the fire of zeal in us as well.

Lent provides for us an opportunity for a gut-check. Has our religion become cold routine, a mere collection of intellectual convictions and external rituals as with the scribes and Pharisees? Is our piety more a monument to ourselves than to God as in the case of Herod? Is Christ crucified for us the power and the wisdom of God, or just a plaster figure hanging on the wall?
Who is Christ to us? Is he our God? Is he our Lord and Savior? Or is he an abstraction?

You know what I mean. You've felt the comforting fires of a lukewarm faith. We all have.

All but the most holy of us have sought the consolations of God for ourselves, not the God of consolations, at different times. We've rejoiced to enjoy the consoling presence of the Lord wherever we've experienced it. We've sought the same serenity again and again.

The trouble is that we wanted on our terms what he gives us first and freely. There's only one price we need to pay. That's the price of putting our ego and pride upon the cross. What does that mean?

That means we need to listen. That means we need to change. We need to let him change us into the person he intends us to be.

Often, we won't. We have our legion of excuses, fears or misconceptions. We don't want to change. No, our circumstances, families, co-workers and nations all need to change. That's where the problems lay. We're just fine the way we are, thank you very much. We're afraid to let him make us into who he intends us to be. How would we go on?

Every day, he offers us the choice: Stay as we are, or follow him and become one with him in his mystical body. This lent, we have the opportunity to follow him through his desert. We can cleanse our own hearts of the money-changers that we've enthroned there. We can open our spirit to the true worship of our God: the offering of our very selves in love to the One that saves us!

How can we bear not to?