To sanctify, in a lay man’s understanding means to cleanse, to purify and declare something free from contamination. It entails freedom from sin and evil. To sanctify also means to set something apart as holy and sacred. To sanctify our lives then means to free our lives from everything unclean and make our lives holy. It also means to set our lives, body and soul apart as a dedication to God.
This is the message of the third Sunday of Lent. The Church is inviting us today to use these solemn moments to sanctify ourselves again. In today’s readings, we can delineate the ways we can cleanse our lives again and become holy.
The Word of God as a Guide.
In the first reading, God laid out ten commandments to guide the Israelites. Before this chapter, God promised the Israelites in chapter 19, that if they would obey and keep His commandments, He would make them treasured among all the nations.
And although He is God of all the earth, the Israelites would become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6). The people agree to this. So in chapter 20, God now speaks to the Israelites His commands. Hence they have to take the commandments as their guide.
To sanctify our lives, we need the word of God. We do not live how we want or how we think or do whatever we want. We need to abide by the word of God. When we live by the word, we live in holiness, we make our lives a dedication to God, and God lightens our path.
As the psalmist says in Psalm 119:105 that the Word God speaks is a lamp unto our paths and should be a light directing our paths. When we choose to live by the word of God, we choose to live in wisdom, we begin to understand the true person of Jesus as St. Paul tries to reveal in the second reading.
Cleanse the Temple.
During the celebration of any Passover feast, visitors all over the neighbouring countries, both Jews and gentiles go to the city of Jerusalem.
This is why John began this narration with: before the Passover feast”. It was during the time of this feast that Jesus wiped away those selling in the temple.
The feast of Passover is when the Israelites recall God’s liberation from the hand of the Egyptians. So, during this feast, many people throng the temple of Jerusalem which was the centre of the religious life of the people. Many people use this time to come to the temple and offer sacrifices to God as part of fulfilling their obligations.
Before they do this, the sacrifices have to be inspected to make sure that they are unblemished and adequate to offer sacrifices to God. Most of the leaders would reject the offerings on the ground that they are not up to the standard to sacrifice to God. They do this to achieve their ulterior motives.
So, they would ask the people to buy the one sold at the temple, which is always at an exorbitant price. So the feast hence becomes an occasion of abuse and oppression to the poor. Any money brought from outside is also considered unacceptable to be offered to God, which hence has to be changed with the temple money.
So this occasion becomes an avenue of corruption and oppression. When Jesus meets this, He takes a cord and makes a whip out of it and wipes away all those selling and changing their money. Angrily He said, “Take all these out of this place and stop turning my Father’s house into a market”.
We are also God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Ephesians 2:2 says that we are God’s eternal dwelling. God longs that this dwelling should be kept clean and holy.
The time of Lent is a time we have to clean our lives again and flee from any sin that corrupts the body, such as immorality, slander, hatred, anger, wickedness etc. In the same way, Jesus tells us to take away everything that is not supposed to be part of this temple of God.
To sanctify our lives, In this Lenten season, we have to take away all the uncleanness and make ourselves pure again.
Live a Life of Prayer.
The temple of Jerusalem is divided into five sections; they are the court of priests, holy of holies, men, women and gentiles. Most of these transactions were done at the court of the gentiles, which was in the courtyard of the temple. This is the only place accessible to non-jews. But the jews use this place to sell and make their transactions.
So, this is not only injustice but as well prevents people who come from other countries to participate actively and pray.
So, instead of being a house of prayer and spiritual enrichment, they turn it to be a house for material gain. God demands that His house would be a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:17)and not only for material gain.
To sanctify our lives, we remove whatever could bridge the gap of communication between us and God. We need to live a life of prayer and stay always in communion with Him. Our lives must not be removed from God. But today, we prefer to leave God and pursue worldly things that would one day disappear into the thin air. We need a life of communion with God to sanctify our lives.
Invite Jesus into the Temple.
Many commentators say that Jesus uses this avenue to announce His presence. Hence, His presence is saying “here is the messiah who is willing to wipe away your sins”.
Jesus is telling the Jews, that it is no longer business as usual, He is bringing in a new life in the life of the jews.
Immediately he entered the temple, everything was wiped out. There was a total change. In the same way, when we allow Jesus into our hearts, He will wipe away everything that does not give God glory. He is going to make us well again.
The action of Jesus today is saying that He is the only one who can raise our bodies again and restore them to a new life.
He is also the one who can raise it on the last day. His presence is also saying “with me, old things have passed and new things are here, with me everything will become clean, sin will have no place in your life. So, Jesus is invariably telling us that we need Him to sanctify our lives again and become holy. Invite Jesus into your life and give Him access into your heart. His presence brings change.
1. What Jesus did today is simply a message to remind us that our lives are sacred. We do not treat the body the way we want.
We have heard people say things like “nobody owns my life”,” I live the way I want”, I owe nobody any explanation”, “it is my life and it does not concern anybody”.
These statements are false. God owns your life and not you. We do not live the way we want. We live according to the way God wants. You may owe nobody explanation, but at the end of our lives, we must. It is not your life. God lives in us. We have to understand this and treat the body as sacred.
2. While pointing to the temple, Jesus referred to it as His body. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it”, invariably talking about His resurrection.
If our body is the temple of God, Jesus is also part of this temple. Through the crucifixion, he would crucify everything that belongs to the flesh, everything that leads to sin and through His resurrection, he would raise us again to new life. God demands that we live a life in the spirit and not a life of the flesh.
Secondly, every house of God is a place God dwells. Once you enter the house of God, show reverence to God. It is not a house where you come and read newspapers and go. It is not a place where you stay on social media.
The house of God should be treated as what it is. When entering the church, remember that God demands nothing in His house, but your reverence.
3. The presence of Jesus leads to the sanctification of the temple, but what He did infuriates the sellers and the leaders who are gaining from the business of the day.
When we allow Jesus to come into our hearts, His presence would make us whole again. To sanctify our lives we need Him, but those who are reaping from that life that we have been living will not be happy.
When you cleanse your life and change, the devil and his agents become uncomfortable. Your friends you commit sins with will not be happy, the people who enrich their pockets through those past dirty deals may even begin to ignore or fight you. But do not become weak. Always look up to the Lord.
4. Like Jesus, Let us always say no to evil. Never allow evil to take its victory wherever you are. Do not close your eyes as if you do not know that something is going wrong.
People may dislike you because of that but remain strong. Like Jesus, be courageous in fighting evil. It is better than joining the wagon and losing eternal life at the end.
5. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says to flee from sexual immorality. He who commits se3ual immorality sins against his own body. Or are you not aware that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
We are not the owners of ourselves. Somebody owns us. Thereby to sanctify our lives we have to understand this and flee from anything that corrupts the sanctity of our bodies.
6. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul requests that we present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable (Romans 12;1-2) and not to desecrate it because of what it is; the temple of God. This temple is for God only. Thereby we have to dedicate our lives and everything we do to God.
God demands that we take it as a sacrifice we have to do for Him. Let us do these in this Lenten season, to sanctify our lives again. God loves you more than you ever think. Happy Sunday, and remain blessed.