Lent Day 43 – Cleansing Our Temple

by Bishop Robert Barron

We hear in the Gospel how Jesus entered the great Temple in Jerusalem—which for a Jew of that time was everything—and began to tear the place apart. Precisely because the Temple was supposed to be so holy, Jesus was flabbergasted at what had happened to it, how the trading of merchants had come to dominate what was supposed to be holy ground.

From the earliest days, Christian writers and spiritual teachers saw the Temple as symbolic of the human person. In fact, St. Paul himself referred to the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Your very self is meant to be a temple, where God’s spirit dwells and where prayer, communion with God, is central.

But what happens to us sinners? The moneychangers and the merchants enter in. What is supposed to be a place of prayer becomes a den of thieves. And so the Lord must do in us now what he did in the Temple then: a little house-cleaning.

One of the best ways that we can cooperate with this process is to go back to the basics of the Ten Commandments. Let’s just look at the first three. The first three commandments have to do with the question of one’s fundamental spiritual orientation: who or what, precisely, is the object of your worship? What do you hold to be spiritually basic? If we’re honest, a lot of us would say something like sex, pleasure, money, power, status, or to sum all of this up, our own egos. And so we need to hear the very first commandment: “I am the Lord your God; you shall not have other gods besides me.”

Next, you shall not disrespect God with your speech, for this leads rather quickly to a denigration of God: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” This can seem fussy and puritanical, as though “swearing” is a terrible sin. But speech is a terribly powerful thing. What we say influences profoundly how we think and act, which in turn shapes our attitudes and behaviors.

And thirdly, you must worship this God on a regular basis. There is no place for the attitude of “I’m alright with God; I just have no time for going to Mass.” Or “I get nothing out of the Mass.” So what? You’re obliged to concretize your worship. “Keep holy the Sabbath day.”

What shape is the Temple of your soul in with regard to these first three commandments?


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  • Anton D

    – ‘ Lord must do in us now what he did in the Temple then: a little house-cleaning. ‘

    – ‘ who or what, precisely, is the object of your worship? What do you hold to be spiritually basic?
    If we’re honest, a lot of us would say something like sex, pleasure, money, power, status, or to sum all of this up, our own egos. ‘

    – ‘ You’re obliged to concretize your worship. ‘

  • Nancy Rynders

    Straight and to the point, Bishop Baron. The first 3 Commandments require us to focus on our relationship with God the Father. If it’s solid, our relationship with others will only be better, which will make following the other 7 Commandments not as difficult. We have a few more days to focus on “cleaning out the temple.” Let’s make the best of it!

    • concerned citizen

      Can you love your neighbor without loving God?

  • Juliet Kanu

    God bless you for blessing my life.

  • ber

    How am I in regard to the commandments ?? Pretty lousy I am shocked even at myself and still can’t believe it but why be shocked when I know I am a sinner and I used to be the one that used to say keep the ten commandments and youl live a good life then I needed a big lesson on humility for when you loose everything even your good name you have no reason to be proud but then there is those that never break the law and justify themselves in gods sight because there love is with the head not the heart they believe their salvation is a right of passage there I go judging again see how sinfull I am but that’s what keeps me at the feet of the lord for I am waiting for the scraps from his table dare he raise me any higher I would become concited larzers waited at the gates full of wounds I also am full of wounds from life I but unlike larzers my king took pity on me cleaned my wounds and sent me on my way thank you jesus

  • Jeanne Starr Haidary

    I knew Paul’s reference to our body being the temple of the Holy Spirit, but I never made the connection to Jesus’ cleansing of the temple as figurative of cleaning this temple. Even as a life long church goer, Sunday School teacher, worship band member–my temple needs a regular cleansing. Just like housework, it has to be done daily.

  • Elizabeth

    What we say influences profoundly how we think and act, which in turn shapes our attitudes and behaviors. Recently in my faith formation class, a second class joined us. The exuberance of 5th graders in wanting to be a reader is amazing. Well, my sin of pride came to light through this particular session. I had asked all the students to be quiet and I would pick out the readers. One of the girls in my class I had intended to pick out for a reading, just kept stating she wanted to read, raising her hand along with some of the others. I tried to calm her down to no avail. Eventually I said to her “will you shut-up.” Not very nice for a religious ed teacher to demonstrate to the class. Of course, she was offended. I was so proud of my class I lost focus and therefore did not demonstrate my faith to these young budding Catholics. Father, forgive me, for I know not what I do.

    • Geraldine (Gerry) Novotny

      Elizabeth, I love all your comments. I’d like your opinion on Mass behavior. I know Jesus is in the Tabernacle and we all should always show respect and love for Him while in His Presence. I was brought up to not talk in church, etc. However, over these many decades I’ve been on this earth I’ve been thinking differently. What about the grandma who wants to share pictures of her grandchildren with her friends that she sees only once a week? What’s wrong with a child coloring on the pew so as to keep him quiet? A crying baby should be taken out of church for a while until he is comforted but why do the congregants get so upset in regard to all this? Families should be welcome in church and I firmly believe Jesus welcomes them. Church is a gathering place where Jesus shares Himself with us. I think it would be just fine to have a little sharing amongst ourselves as we do at our own family meals? Just wondering…

      • Elizabeth

        I will reflect on your question and answer later this evening. My soul in the inner chambers of my heart, but the body is in a physical temple called house. Time to spruce up house temple, head to faith formation class then evening Mass. Last before Triduum.

        • Geraldine (Gerry) Novotny

          Thanks for all your comments… Happy Easter to all you Bishop Barren fans. I feel like we are almost like a little club.

          • Elizabeth

            Not a club a community of believers. Happy Easter to you as well.

      • concerned citizen

        Geraldine, I have that problem with my family and in laws. After the Mass, while still in the Church, they would gather together and start talking. When this happens, I remind them that some people are praying and ask that we talk outside the Church. With regards to babies crying, I am more understanding, although when I still had a toddler, I made sure that when she is becoming restless, I would already step out of the Church until she becomes more well behaved. I don’t know but i am sensitive to the feelings of people inside the Church. I do not want to be disturbing them especially when they are praying.

      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        The Pastoral Assistant at our church often starts conversations with the congregation on the way out from Mass, of course these are brief. I also think that coffee hour that is held after many Masses is very important. As for the unruly toddler or infant, well I attended Mass in the “cry room” until my youngest was in kindergarten. He just revealed to me that he liked being in the “cry room” because it made him feel special.

      • Elizabeth

        Geraldine, I, too, was brought up to not talk in church. It has also been said that Mass starts once you enter the Church. As far as grandma wanting to share pictures of her grandchildren with her friends she sees once a week, can they not have this type of interaction before or after Mass? Just asking. With regards to a child coloring I have seen where it was a distraction since the child’s attention span flitted from activity to activity. On the other hand, below are observations I have made that seem to work. Also, we have 6 Masses, 2 on Saturdays, 3 before Noon on Sunday and One evening Mass. So parishioners can pick out one that will work for them.

        First of all, it depends on the pastor and priest in our church if children feel welcomed, truly welcomed. Most families with young infants will sit in the back. When there are gurgling sounds it doesn’t seem to distract those around them. In fact, I see a small smile creep onto adults faces. The loud crying or other types of distraction, we hear the door open and close as they leave and go to the cry room. Many times they would return. Other times they stayed there until the end of Mass. I forgot to say this is a 7:30 am Mass.
        The 9:00 am is a children’s Mass. And the 11:00 am Mass have more and more families with all age children. We also have 2 Masses on Saturday evening as well as a 5:15 pm Mass on Sunday. This Mass is geared to the teenagers since they have the youth group meeting afterwards.

    • D Blyth

      Elizabeth you may be an example to your class by apologising to that girl!
      What appears to be a failing may be made into a blessing!

      • Elizabeth

        When the incident occurred, I had explained to her that I had wanted her to quiet down so I could call on her. She must have spoken with her mother, who is a para at one of the public schools. Because this afternoon, when we had our class meeting, the young lady was all smiles and more focused. Also, today, a mother of one of the boys presented me with tulips for Easter. She not only appreciated her son being in my class but when I found out her mother, with COPD and pneumonia was entering the hospital, I told her I would place her mother on the intercessory prayer line we have at the church..She let me know her mother is at home with oxygen and doing well. So, I know God uses us for his purpose.

        • D Blyth

          It seems that good has triumphed!
          Well done Elizabeth!

  • Joseph T. Garcia

    My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord , my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for He has looked with favor on his lowly servant ..

  • Jim Kenny

    Think about it …………..√There is no place for the attitude of “I’m alright with God; I just have no time for going to Mass

    • Gary

      If you are right with God, you will look forward to going to Mass because you are in a love relationship with Jesus, and every moment you spend with him is precious to you and him.

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    Our own ego’s that strikes a note. I have to tell you a story. My Confessor told me that I should not be a extraordinary minister that was not okay unless it was emergency, well that took me back a bit. I was determined to get to the bottom of this. So I researched this and finally I found Canon Law on this very subject. I found out that Extraordinary ministers are only to be used during a real pinch no other way out emergency where a Deacon is not present. I want to share with you after reading this document how I believe this has damaged the faith, of others. You have heard did some people don’t believe that the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of the Lord, I now think perhaps it is because to many people handle the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord. Read this document than take it to your Priest and see what he says. http://www.canonlawmadeeasy.com/2008/11/01/questionsabouteuchariststic-ministers/ Put this in the whole thing just like that. Canon Law can not be set aside know matter what.

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    http://www.canonlawmadeeasy.com/2008/11/01/questionsabout-eucharist-minsters/ The computer is changing the address below. I hope you get the whole thing other wise I don’t think it will work.

  • concerned citizen

    A brief daily examination of conscience and a sincere act of contrition will go a long way in keeping your temple clean. Regular confession will not only clean your temple but gives us the grace to fight temptation even in committing venial sins. Praying the Holy Rosary everyday devotedly is a sure way of driving away the devil. Meditating on the Passion and Death of Jesus provides us the strength to avoid occasions of sin. Mortification gives us the strength to fight the temptation of the flesh and the world.

    • Gary

      Jesus does love a contrite heart.

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    I thought occurred to me. Today the church is not a temple of the Lord. It is becoming a prison. We are encouraged by the secular world to leave our religion behind the church doors. I have adopted the custom that when someone gives me good news, I say “Praise God, I am so happy for you.”
    It seems that “that the money changers have taken over society” Almsgiving is one way of driving them out.

  • anonymous

    Silence the tongue. Not easy, but nonetheless, one of my lenten practices to develop into promise. And i like so very much how it helps in humbling one’s own self. It’s a good feeling, a feeling of loving more, kind of like being a little closer to HIM!

  • Patrick Cassidy

    This has been a really trying week for me (my cat of 20 years was put down Monday). I am trying so hard to get back to basics and refocus on Holy Week.

    But, we need to get our houses in order before we renew our baptismal promises on Saturday/Sunday. Let Jesus drive out the thieves, and let the Holy Spirit consume you wholly from the inside out!

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      So sad for you, I know how hard it is to lose a beloved pet. Please thank God for the years He permitted you to enjoy the companionship of this pet.

    • ber

      He didn’t drive out the thrives Patrick in fact he saved one ??? Sorry to hear about your cat

      • Patrick Cassidy

        Thieves in the sense of money changers as Fr. Baron said.

        • ber

          I thought the money changers were bankers and shopkeeper as they were selling things unless iv got it wrong but well said will have to read it again

    • D Blyth

      Sorry about your loss Patrick. When I lost my dog, I consoled myself with the thought that the good that she brought us was a gift from out Lord.

  • http://www.gunjones.com Wm. Thomas Sherman

    While I more often post a comment to Bishop Barron’s boards to take slight exception to what he says as matter of factual, rational, and theological nicety, this is an occasion when my remark is one of whole-hearted endorsement. This is Bishop Barron at his best — namely, when he brings something to mind that either never occurred to us before, or else he makes more clear what previously we had not fully or adequately grasped.

  • April Grace

    In my youth I’ve said, “I get nothing out of the Mass.” :0( Now, I go to Mass to give and the Lord fills my cup to overflowing.
    Choose to go to Mass to give God the worship, praise and honor He deserves. Time is precious in our corporal world; God deserves precious.

  • Penelope

    1st commandment – I think it’s hard to live in the world and not be part of it. I pray for detachment, but I do know that I can get quite scrupulous with myself. Going to confession always brings me perspective as well as absolution. This morning I read a beautiful meditation entitled, Prayer at the Deepest Level. The author’s closing words touched me deeply: …in the final analysis, the lover does not spend time with the Beloved because of the consolation; the lover just wants to be with the Beloved.’ Consolation came to me as pure gift, and I stayed in that place with the Lord, overwhelmed by His Love and Peace…

    2nd commandment – As for swearing, I catch myself saying things like ‘sugar’ sometimes, and I often see in emails ‘omg’ etc. We are bombarded by swearing all around us in many forms, and we can become desensitized. But I have learned that flirting with profanity is just as dangerous as letting it come clearly out of my mouth. It’s back to the confessional, and grace will abound!

    3rd commandment – I love going to Mass, but there are times, particularly after a trying day, when I open my eyes the next morning, and a heaviness descends upon me, with the feeling that I just don’t want to go. I am very aware that something is oppressing me, and it takes everything I have to battle through the darkness, and to get up and continue on. And of course as soon as I step through church doors, my heart lifts. I thank the Lord for my husband, who is an early bird, and always raring to go.
    Thank you for the soul-check, Bishop Barron!

    ps if anyone would like a taste of Jim Manney’s daily meditations, click on the link at Loyola Press below, and you will be able to read some of his daily meditations…an Ignatian book of days:

  • Màire Ní Bhroin

    There are so many blessings when we follow those commandments.Thank God, in modern times, we also have mass for shutins, both online and on television for those of us who can’t always get to church due to weather or health issues. If we are unable to physically be at our local church, we can now be somewhat like St.Clare, and watch the mass at home.

  • Valerie Yvonne

    Very beautiful and important points to ponder. But i am just looking for answers to satisfy my need to clean MY temple. In the catholic church we do have statues what do they mean to us? We also have a mini altar in our homes with a lit lamp. How do we pray ? what is intense prayer and fasting what do they really mean? When i sit for prayer sometimes someone calls or someone needs me or I have to stop for something or someone – do i turn a blind eye and continue to pray? How should i react? Why is suffering always connected with Jesus – is our lives meant to suffer? Jesus loves us! it really confuses me, I love my God but I dont suffer in the real meaning of suffering does that mean I am far from God? I know they maybe very childish questions to the learned but my heart asks which way..

  • Monica Chagoya

    ok well, the 3rd commandment was you will not make any images not go worship God regularly..

    “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”

    In fact I was reading this to find out how come WE (Catholics) do have lots of images in churches, if we are not supposed to?
    I went to Wikipedia ad voilà:
    Although no single biblical passage contains a complete definition of idolatry, the subject is addressed in numerous passages, so that idolatry may be summarized as the worship of idols (or images);

  • rtclovesmac

    Don’t know how I missed this reflection, but to this end Ihis weekend has brought to the humbling realization that while I have been cleaning the temple well this Lent, such efforts cannot be just for Lent, but throughout the year.

    Without warning evil can blow in through open doors interfering with the worship in this temple of mine.

    As such while I finished. An Easter Nivena, I have started another Novena to the Divine Metcy looking forward to what I need most Christ’s Mercy!