How Open are our Hearts to God?

03-04-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

It is said by many people that they need "closure," that they really need to know. There seems to be deep within us the need to know so that we will finally understand something and accept it in our lives. We even want to know many things that we should not know. We are often curious about information and people that is "none of our business." We like mysteries only if we know the answer to it and others do not. We also forget that knowing something also makes us responsible.

If we collected all the data of the world, or could comprehend all the (correct) information in Wikipedia, we might be able to rise to a level where we could capture some insight or understanding about who God really is. The truth is, though, that we would still being speculating or guessing about God's revelation of Himself to us as a gift. We know from the stories in the Book of Exodus that God made a covenant with us. God offered to the enslaved Israelites a covenant and relationship with Him. Do you think anyone could have thought that up on his or her own? Do you think someone would have been creative enough to sense that there was a God who wanted to have a special relationship with the Jews? Who really knew that there was a God who sought to free the Jews from slavery and make them his free Chosen People?

The Israelites learned over time that the commandments established the features of a relationship of God to a people and each person to the other. These people learned that they should keep God firmly in first place and devoutly in heart, mind and word. The Ten Commandments are clearly means of expression in that they are ways to let love show and ways to keep the covenant.

When we read the Gospel today, we are surprised by the behavior of Jesus. Bear in mind in Matthew, Mark and Luke's versions the cleansing of the Temple occur at the end of the public ministry of Jesus, not at the early beginning as in this, John's Gospel. We must note that the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus occurs long before we are aware of any conflict Jesus has with religious leadership. The author John does not care about auditing the Temple treasury as declaring clearly who Jesus is - the dwelling of God among us.

This story mirrors the very words that open John's Gospel: "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (1:14). It is clear that the Temple in all its glory is not the dwelling that ultimately matters. Even though it took nearly a half century to building this edifice, the Temple was still no more than a building set aside for holy purposes. John makes it all clear: Jesus is the new dwelling of God, who will not be destroyed and who will be raised up in three days.

In John, the "cleansing of the Temple" happened during the Passover festival, when Jesus was in Jerusalem with thousands of others. During that time, more people came to believe in Jesus, but many also did not. Note Jesus' anger in this story is aimed at those cynical religious leaders or sanctimonious believers. Indeed, Jesus is not the revelation they wanted.

We learn in the scriptures this weekend that when the heart is closed, nothing for good can truly happen. It did not matter what Jesus did in the Temple or what he said to those with closed off hearts. The question is for us: how open are our hearts to our God in our own lives.