The words of John’s gospel today may be familiar ones to us. I’ve heard this passage countless times to show that “even Jesus got angry” and to (rightfully) justify outrage at injustice and disrespect of the Lord. But sometimes I think we are kidding ourselves. We hide our self-righteous pride behind Jesus’ righteous anger. We stand in condemnation with Jesus, ready to point out the hypocrites in church, ready to point the finger at what everyone else is doing wrong. But maybe we should consider this story from another angle, the angle of the temple, because each of us is a temple of God.
We don’t want to believe that we are overrun with the likes of oxen, sheep, doves, and money changers. How blasphemous! But what if we knew that the oxen, sheep, and doves in the passage were being sold for sacrifice in the temple, a common practice of the day? And what if we realized that the moneychangers were there so you could pay the temple tax, not something that would immediately be recognized as out of place? Surprisingly for us, they might actually appear to belong.
So, when I wrote my Advent reflection for Amate back in December, I had no idea how helpful and prophetic it would be for my own life. It has the Holy Spirit written all over it, because it’s been exactly what I needed during these last few months (in addition to the love and support of so many wonderful people of course). But I know the Holy Spirit was at work. In case you haven’t read the reflection (go here if you want to!), the main format was, “These things A,B, and C try to steal my hope” but “these things D, E, and F remind me to choose hope.” However, when I originally wrote the reflection, I wrote, “I have hope because of D, E, and F….” not “I choose hope because of D, E, and F.” But two days before the Advent reflection night, when we were practicing it as a house and right before my turn, I leaned over to one of my wonderful housemates and crossed out have and wrote choose, and then wrote a big ????. She gave me an encouraging nod, YES.
Thank you, Holy Spirit.
And then, we started off our first community night of 2012 for Amate House with this reflection:
Hope opens doors where despair closes them.
Hope discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot.
Hope draws its power from a deep trust in God and the basic goodness of mankind.
Hope “lights a candle” instead of “cursing the darkness.”
Hope regards problems, small or large, as opportunities.
Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield to cynicism.
Hope sets big goals and is not frustrated by repeated difficulties or setbacks.
Hope pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit.
Hope puts up with modest gains, realizing that “the longest journey starts with one step.”
Hope accepts misunderstandings as the price for serving the greater good of others.
Hope is a good loser because it has the divine assurance of final victory. (James Keller, M.M.)
Oh how much I love this!
It’s exactly what I would need to hear again and again in the weeks and months that would follow. The lies of cynicism and despair and distrust and giving up have been trying to take root. But to them I say, “No, you will not win. I choose hope.” 🙂