Daily Reflection
November 19th, 1999
Gerry Stockhausen, S.J.
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59
1 Chronicles 29:10-12
Luke 19:45-48

Last month my community had an open house to show off an addition we had built.  But before we could show it off we scrubbed the whole house to make it a fit setting for the party.  We know that even as we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will have to do lots of cleaning to prepare our houses as places of celebration.  It’s not that our guests wouldn’t come or wouldn’t enjoy themselves if the house was dirty, but we clean as a mark of respect and welcome.

We hear two house-cleaning stories in today’s readings.  In the time of the Maccabees, after the temple had been defiled by pagan idol worship, it needed rebuilding, cleaning, and reconsecration to make it a fit place for worship of the one God.  It’s not that God can’t be worshipped anywhere, even in the foulest setting, but they express their praise and gratitude to God by making beautiful the place of prayer, of intimate union with God. 

In the time of Jesus, after the temple had become a place of commerce, it needed the cleansing of Jesus' presence to make it a fit place for him to teach the good news.  It’s not that the good news can’t be proclaimed in the midst of commerce, but that the competition and calculation we need to conduct commerce are not the attitudes of a good hearer of the word.  In commerce we calculate what is the least we can give up and still get the most of what we want.  In hearing the word we are invited to surrender our whole selves to receive more than we could possibly ask or imagine.

We are invited to be vigilant in keeping our temples—i.e., our whole selves—prepared for the presence of our God.  God indeed can and does find us in our messiness, but that doesn’t mean we should keep things as messy as possible.  Just as blood flows better when the arteries aren’t clogged and oxygen when the lungs aren’t full of smoke, so our relationship with God flows better when we remove as many obstacles as we can.  Keeping our temples “clean,” like cleaning our houses, is a way of saying to God “you are always here.”

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