Did you ever get that feeling that you just want to throw something?
My brother and I have a good relationship for the most part, but, as all siblings do on occasion, we’ve had our skirmishes, and one time I remember in particular, for whatever reason, he threw the phone at me.
Luckily for me, it was still attached to the wall by that long curled leash – remember the good old days when teenagers could only talk on the family phone within a few feet of the kitchen, those bygone days when socializing didn’t invade every waking (and sleeping!) hour???
I can’t remember what the fight was about, but I probably deserved to have something thrown at me a few times growing up! I love my brothers, but we fought over some pretty stupid things as kids – still do sometimes. I’m sure it’s more my fault than theirs though! 😉
Even now, as an adult, I’ll be forced to admit there are times, thankfully few and far between, that I can feel my blood boil, my muscles clench, and I force myself to bite my tongue – some days more successfully than others.
Whether it is an x, our children, or even a random driver cutting us off, sometimes we all feel anger rise up inside. Despite how even tempered we try to be, despite how even tempered we know we SHOULD be, despite a general ability to laugh off life’s little aggravations, there are times when that anger boils up and we want to blow our tops.
Jesus must have felt the same way as He entered the temple and saw the gaming tables.
In Sunday’s Gospel reading, we can visualize Jesus entering the heavy, ornate doors, doors opened for those turning a profit for the temple rather than for those entering to pray.
We can wonder if He was going there to pray
or if He already knew the state He would find the temple in.
Maybe He was hoping against hope that He was wrong, that things weren’t as bad as He believed.
We have all been in that situation at some point, hoping what we know to be true isn’t really true.
But it was as bad as He knew it would be.
Gambling, trade, money making, animals – both four-legged and two – roamed within.
And Jesus blew His top.
He made a whip of cords, and we can only wonder how quickly he could have done this and what thoughts crossed His mind as He did so, and He used that whip to drive out the animals, to flip over the gaming tables, and to spill the coins.
To me, it sounds like Our Lord had a temper tantrum.
But there are a few important differences between the temper tantrums human beings throw and that temper our Savior displayed that day.
When people have temper tantrums, we tend to do so because we want more for ourselves – more attention, more material possessions, more justice when we feel wronged.
Jesus wanted less of these things and more of others – less attention to people, more attention to God, fewer material possessions, more worship, less judgment by the wealthy Pharisees, more acceptance of the poor Widow and her meager offering.
When people have temper tantrums, we tend to hurt others. We lash out from either self-protection or pure aggression. We seldom think of the effects of our anger on those around us. Our anger is about us, although we blame it on others.
Jesus recognized that by turning the temple into a money market, people would use phrases like, “The church just cares about money,” that still do damage today. Jesus used His temper to show what the church should look like, not what it actually looked like. He used it to clean out what was wrong in the “faithful” and draw Good people, who would have been turned off by the fakeness of the temple, back to the faith.
When people have temper tantrums, we tend to forget that God has the power to take our situations and use them for amazing Good. The phrase, “blinded by rage” is not a made up phrase. Too often, people get caught up in their situations, thinking they are their situations and they are in control while forgetting the Lord is really in control.
Jesus ended His argument by giving insight into the power of God. By saying,
Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
Jesus shows the power of God despite His anger. He never loses focus on what God is capable of or of the reason the temple will need to be destroyed and raised. He never desires to quit His battle against evil or live for Himself rather than for the Father.
Anger is a very human reaction. While we may not be immune to the emotion, we can learn a lot by studying Jesus and His display and use of anger.
When you feel anger rise up within yourself, stop and reflect (as I believe Jesus did as He made that cord).Before blowing your top, stop and ask yourself that quaint little question, “What Would Jesus Do?” Pause to decide whether your anger can be used to build or destroy the temple the Lord is building.
For a complete list of Sunday, November 9, 2014’s readings, please click here.