Exodus 20: 1-17; I Corinthians 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25
Before about 2 months ago, the name Jeff Bethke meant absolutely nothing and may still mean nothing to most of you. But if you spend anytime not he internet or youtube, you’d probably be familiar with his video that he posted entitled, “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus”. To date, there have been almost 20 million people that have viewed it. Of course, the natural inclination by “Church people” when the video posted was to, like Jesus, crucify him…prove him wrong, tell him how he’s wrong, and so on. However, if you spend anytime getting to know why he did this and who he is, you will see that he actually is a practicing Christian, attends church like us, and after reading about him on a spread in Time Magazine a few weeks, simply wants to engage people in conversation because he believes religion is no longer authentic, that it has become too political, divisive, and all this other negative stuff, that it has driven people away from the faith. He agrees that his theology may not be the best, but does believe that religion needs to be turned upside down, and is necessary at times because it loses sight of its mission and purpose of leading people to a deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ, with God.
Even Jesus challenged religion as we hear in today’s Gospel. He’s angry at what has become of the Temple, and in many ways, wants to turn it too upside down. You have to understand the make-up of the Temple area at that time…there was the street, then this inner courtyard, and then the Temple area. The place we find Jesus today is that inner courtyard area, which was also the place that the Gentiles came to pray since they weren’t allowed into the Temple, and so the market has moved from the street in tot this area of prayer. It angers him, but also because the religious leaders were allowing this and at time profiting from it…again, losing sight of their mission and purpose of leading people to the Father; Jesus himself identifies it as the Father’s house.
In the first reading we hear something we are all familiar with, the Ten Commandments. Again, keep in mind the bigger picture of this story because the Israelites also lost sight of what was most important…Moses was taking too long up the mountain, they became impatient, they were getting anxious, and so build this golden calf. When Moses does return, he too, like Jesus, becomes angered by what they have done! Of the 17 versus that we hear today, about ten of them are about what is most important, that being the relationship with this God. How easy it is to lose focus on what is most important. Seven of the ten commandments are about relationships, and yet, most of our time is spent getting lost in the other three!
Paul too has that experience with the Corinthians, who he rightfully turns upside down. He mentions today that Jews demand signs and Greeks, wisdom, but he says you already have what you need…we have Christ crucified! Stop looking out there and losing your focus on what is most important, that relationship with Christ. That is why we come here and what is most important about religion, and why at times it needs to be turned upside down…we lose sight of the all-important relationship that we are invited into with God.
During this season of Lent we are being invited to be turned upside down by Christ, because we too lose sight of our mission and purpose and what is most important. We focus too much on politics, jobs, finances, sports, and everything else that has a tendency to pull us away and lose sight of what is most important, that relationship with God. What, in my life, needs to be turned upside down so I can begin to grow in that relationship with God? That’s why we are here…to grow in that intimate relationship with the crucified Christ in this Eucharist and once again regain our focus on our mission during this season of Lent.