Saint for the day: Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165)
1 Peter 4:7-13 – Psalm 96:10-13 – Mark 11:11-26
“Did you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit? Therefore drive out from yourselves all that is not of God.
If I were a director for a stage play or movie centered around today’s Gospel I would have had my work cut out for me! There’s just a lot going on. How do we pull it all together with some sense of purpose and meaning? Jesus goes in and out of the Temple area and back and forth to and from Bethany and a poor fig tree gets blamed for not having figs even though it’s “not the season for figs!”
What’s going on and what does the Gospel writer want us to hear about this passage?
Seems to me it’s the basic struggle that exists between the world, the flesh and the devil. In the first place we see that “the world” will always try to get as much out of us as possible and sometimes we are not even aware that anything bad is happening. Things start out as being necessary: money had to be changed in order to pay the Temple Tax. But what “the world” does is to jack up the ante so that sooner or later we feel the pinch. Jesus’ response is to overturn the tables of the moneychangers and drive them out of the Temple area.
Then, on His way to Bethany he sees a poor, barren fig tree that He curses for no apparent reason and his disciples notice it withered when they are returning to the Temple and ask Jesus about this. Jesus’ response: “…if you say to this mountain ‘Up and into the sea’ it shall be so. Anything you ask for in prayer – without doubting – will be done.”
I’m sure that most of us have many experiences of “asking in faith” only to see it not accomplished. So, what’s our ‘bottom line’ here?
I think that the closing of this Gospel passage holds the answer. It takes us back to the ‘Lord’s Prayer:’ “… unlimited forgiveness to those who have wronged us so that we, also, might know the limitless forgiveness and mercy of God in our lives.”
This is where “cleansing” comes in. We have to overturn all that pulls us away from God and sweep clean this ‘temple of ours’ that God intends for good. Only when we do this will we find our lives blossoming forth with fresh fruit. You might not like figs but try to get beyond any prejudice to see how much God wants us to be fruitful. Amen!