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?