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3rd Sunday in Lent - Cycle B

John 2:13-25


“Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” (John 2:16)


As I read this passage, I unexpectedly found myself thinking, "Isn't Jesus being a little unfair?" Those money changers and salespeople were only there because Jewish worship required animal sacrifice for the repentance of sin. It wasn’t like people were buying and selling random things in the temple; they needed these services to fulfill God’s law. Having them close just made the process easier.


Of course, Jesus wasn’t just in a bad mood that day. His anger wasn’t an indictment for being practical. He was trying to help God’s Chosen People see that there was a serious rift between them and God. While this rift could be many things, as I contemplated how I personally can make God’s house a marketplace, I realized just how easy it is to make faith practices transactional.


Lent is a huge reminder of where I (and I can guess many others) can accidentally fall into this pattern. Subconsciously, my own fasting or almsgiving often became more of a self-improvement project than a space to grow closer to God. Was I giving up rice krispy treats because I saw snacking as contributing to a disordered relationship with food that got in the way of depending on God? Or was it just a sneaky way to eat fewer calories because I wanted to look a certain way?


That isn’t to say we should only do things if we are sure that we have the purest intentions. Not only would that lead to paralyzing scrupulosity, but virtuous living often leads to happier, earthly living. We can do good things because they make us feel good or have positive results. But it’s important to be aware of where we might be doing something for a hidden human goal and telling ourselves that it’s “just practical” to justify ourselves. 


Those spaces where this type of transactional thinking sinks can be life-changing places to discover. They are often the corners of our hearts that God is calling us to reorient ourselves so that our good deeds and acts of repentance are bringing us closer to God rather than some mere earthly prize.

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