Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Isaiah 55:6-11 / Matthew 21:10-17

What is not to like about paved road, cement sidewalks, or concrete parking lots? There is, of course, nothing intrinsically wrong with them. Anyone who has ever been in a town or village without pavement, who has walked along muddy paths and even muddier streets, knows perfectly well what a boon it is when streets are paved. It is simply for the good, and our life could not be imagined without it.

This is why we may be puzzled that many today worry about the excess of pavement in modern cities. However, these critics have a point. When all of the earth is covered and sealed, the normal cycle of water, a cycle which brings life, is interrupted. What was meant as a convenience, a way to guard us from the dirt and grime of the world, has the unhappy result of diverting the life-giving water from the skies, the rain and the snow that come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth and water it, and make it to spring, and give seed to the sower and bread to the eater. This rain and snow, which should rightly water the earth, we redirect, and unhappily where it does us and the earth very little good.

The money changers in the Temple were much like the pavement. They were instituted so that those who wished to make sacrifice, the very sacrifices commanded by God himself, could do so without using the image-laden, and hence idolatrous currency of Rome. Their service was meant to be a convenience, a way to seal the Temple off from the dirt and grime of heathendom, to ensure that the faithful would not bring with them the corrupting influence of the Gentiles. They also made available, but at a price, and only after profiting from the exchange, doves, the sacrifice specifically provided by the Lord for the poor who could afford nothing else. In so doing, like our modern pavement, these money changers had become a barrier. They needlessly sought to protect the holiness of God, who is the source of holiness, and in the end only managed to profit from the very people they were supposed to serve, placing an obstacle between the sons and daughters of Israel and the life-giving waters that the Lord had promised would flow from the side of his Temple.

It is for this reason that Jesus so angrily, and righteously so, cast out all of them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers and the chairs of them that sold doves. No supposed service of God is accepted by him, no ministry avoids the accusation of theft, which makes it harder, rather than easier, for the faithful, and especially for the poor, to receive the abundant graces of God's word. This is why we, especially those of us charged to minister the word of God to the faithful, need to take care. We can easily, out of desire to promote respect for God and his Church, drive away the very people most in need of the grace of redemption, the living water flowing from the side of Christ. While God's will is never thwarted, woe to him whose carelessness would, taken by itself, divert the saving word of God from its most fruitful course.

May our prayers ascend to Thee, O Lord: and do Thou drive away all wickedness from Thy Church.


dleeo1 said...

I am writing to you here because, I am unable to reach you via other means. I had a dear friend of mine announce tonight that he was stepping away from Vox Nova. Being a participate there had renewed his faith and given him much purpose. He is a devoted member of your faith and has spoken highly of you on many occasions. I will continue to encourage him to keep his faith, even though his own rejects him. The elite in the towers can not see the battle on the front line, when they are blinded by their own knowledge.

Fr. Dominic Holtz, O.P. said...

I am sorry for your friend, and it grieves me that he finds himself rejected. It is a blessing for him that you will continue to encourage him in the faith. One of the great mysteries, but ironically the great consolations, is that the Church is the means by which God imparts to us the grace of holiness and the fruits of redemption, and yet it is made up of sinners, of whom the clergy are by no means the least. This is a deep mystery in that it calls us often to acts of humility and obedience that stretch our hearts, and even break them. It is a consolation because it means that, even in our daily betrayals, indeed even in our blackest sins, we are not irrevocably lost, and the floodgates of mercy can make us white as snow in the blood of the Savior.