Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Gospel for this Sunday reads, “But Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body” (John 2:21). The religious people folks of Jesus time didn’t understand he was talking about the temple of his body because they were about business as usual. It was business as usual that day Jesus showed up at the temple. Animals were being bought and sold. Coins were being changed. All the usual people had their usual places and usual roles.
This is one of those stories that we need to set aside a couple of things, things don’t belong, things that distract, before we can really understand what is happening. We need to set aside what we have often been told or thought this story is about so we can hear it again, maybe for the first time.
This story isn’t simply about Jesus getting angry. Jesus got angry. I get angry. It’s ok to get angry. That misses the point. There’s more to this story than that. And I don’t think it’s about the animals or the moneychangers being in the temple. Jesus surely had to have known they were there. He grew up as a faithful Jew going to the temple. He didn’t show up this day and say, “Wow! There are animals and moneychangers here. I didn’t know this. This is wrong.” The animals and moneychangers had always been there. That’s how the system worked. It was business as usual for them to be there.
Jesus went to the temple that day for one purpose; to throw out and overturn business as usual. There are times when we need the tables of our life overturned and the animals thrown out. It’s just so easy to fall into the trap of business as usual.
Have you ever pushed the auto-pilot button and life became mechanical? You go through the motions. You show up but you’re not really there. That’s business as usual. Have you ever felt like you were just not yourself? Nothing seemed right? Boredom overcame creativity. There was no enthusiasm, wonder, or imagination. It was just business as usual. Sometimes we look at life and the world and all seems in vain. We’re busy but not really getting anywhere. There’s no depth or meaning, only business as usual. Business as usual can happen anywhere: in friendships, marriages, parenting, work, church.
The things I just described are not, however, the problem. They are the symptom in the same way that the animals and moneychangers in the temple are not the problem. They are the symptoms of something deeper going on. The problem is not so much in the temple as it is in the human heart.
That deeper issue is what gives rise to business as usual. Sometimes it’s about our fear. We’re fearful about what is happening in our life or the uncertainty of the future and we want some type of security and predictability so we can keep on doing the same old things. Business as usual is predictable and steady but it creates only the illusion of security. Sometimes business as usual is a symptom of our grief and sorrow. Something has been lost. We can’t get back the life we want so we cling to business as usual because it’s familiar and we want some stability. Other times we are so busy and worn out making a living that life turns into one task after another, one appointment after another, a never ending to do list, and it’s business as usual. Maybe we’ve taken people, relationship, and things for granted. Maybe we’ve lost our sense of gratitude, wonder, or mystery.
There are thousands of reasons and ways in which we fall into business as usual. There’s one thing, however, that I keep coming back to. Forgetfulness. Business as usual is born of forgetfulness. We forget that we really are the temple of God’s presence. We forget that all of creation is the residence of God. We forget that in whatever direction we might turn, there is the face of God gazing upon us. And as soon as we forget those things about ourselves, each other, or the world, life becomes business as usual.
That’s what happened in the temple. They didn’t see themselves or one another as the true temple of God. It was all about the human built temple, the animals, and the coins. They had forgotten that God was more interested in them than in their festivals and that God wanted them more than their offerings.
When we forget that we are the temple of God life can easily become a series of transactions. Relationships and intimacy are lost. Priorities get rearranged. Making a living replaces living a life. Life becomes a marketplace rather than a place for meeting the holy in ourselves and one another. And it’s business as usual.
That’s what Jesus is overturning and driving out of the temple. In the gospel according to St. John this happens at the very beginning of Jesus ministry. The Word became flesh (John 1:14), water became wine (John 2:9), and now the temple is becoming human. And it does not stop here. Throughout the rest of the gospel Jesus will be interrupting business as usual.
Over and over again Jesus interrupts, disrupts, overturns, and throws out business as usual. Business as usual is destructive of our lives and relationships. It destroys our ability see and participate in the holy that is already present in and among us.
The Word became flesh so that the temple might become human. Jesus continues to overturn and throw out business as usual because the truth is there are still Samaritan women waiting at the well in our world today. There are still lame people grounded by business as usual. Empty and hungry people are still a reality in our world and there are dead people waiting to be made alive.
Regardless of who we are, what we’ve done or left undone, or how we see or judge our life, we are the temple of God and there is one who stands in the temple of our life interrupting business as usual. So tell me this. What does the temple of your life need today? What tables in your life need to be overturned? What animals need to be driven out?
Today Jesus comes to each of us, just as he came to the people in the Temple. He calls us back to focus on God’s purpose for our lives. Its back to basics. He wants us to focus on serving God and our neighbor and throw out our business-as-usual attitude.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.