This Sunday I am reminded of a very dear priest friend of mine, Fr. Ken, who shall we say, is no wilting violet—no “Casper Milk Toast.” In particular I think back on a time when in the middle of a wedding as he stood before the couple, a man made the near fatal mistake of parking his ice cream truck right in front of the open front doors of the church (it being a very warm day) and turned up the volume of his loud speakers which were playing a jingle version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Hardly being able to hear himself speak, Father, dressed in full liturgical battle array, walked briskly down the middle aisle, out the doors, and right into the cab of the ice cream vendor’s van. He yelled at the top of his lungs “Move this @#$%!! truck out of here NOW! How many times have I told you not to park here! Can’t you see there is a wedding going on?” The ice cream truck vanished in a cloud of exhaust, Father returned to the sanctuary much in the same way as he had exited, and continued with the blessing of the rings almost without missing a beat.
I’m sorry, but every time I hear or read this gospel account of Jesus going into a holy rage in front of the temple I just can’t help remembering Fr. Ken. It certainly helps me to bring home Jesus’ own reaction to the “buyers and sellers” and his desire to keep his Father’s house a house of prayer—not a marketplace. Observing all of this, Jesus’ disciples remembered the words of Psalm 69, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Zeal for God’s house almost consumed that poor ice-cream man!) Indeed, as Jesus overturns tables, spills money all over the place, and with a whip of chords chases people and animals alike out of the temple area, are we not all a little bit relieved to know that some anger is just? I hardly know of another place in scripture that would help us feel Jesus’ humanity any more than “The Cleansing of the Temple.”
So what part of this gospel do we take away with us for our Lenten journey? On what parts should we ponder and pray? Well, “zeal for God’s house” would have to be at the top of the list. At the conclusion of this celebration of the Holy Eucharist we will be dismissed with an exhortation, something like: “Go the Mass is ended to glorify the Lord by the way we live our lives.” How much, then, of our lives—to any extent—reflect our zeal for God’s house and for establishing his reign upon the Earth? How much do our decisions and actions at home, on the job, or in school demonstrate our desire for all things to be “on Earth as it is in Heaven”?
Along with that exhortation follow-through, I would propose that we think and pray about the words, “… he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.” This is certainly something that would humble me and would help to create a good ambiance for examination of conscience and a good confession. Asking how much Jesus can entrust himself to me could be a very sobering experience.
In the meantime, we still have a substantial part of Lent remaining. Don’t get discouraged and, well, think twice where you park your ice-cream truck.