There are two kinds of house cleaning. There is the routine sweeping, scouring the kitchen and bathrooms and dusting the furniture. Then there is the radical cleaning. It includes the above and goes further. The furniture is moved to get to the dirt under and behind it. The refrigerator is cleaned. Pantries are cleared out and new paper is installed. Closets are emptied and the clutter is taken away.
In the Gospel, Jesus does a radical cleaning of the temple (John 2:13-25). On the sacred observance of Passover people are at the temple by the thousands celebrating Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt by praying and offering sacrifices. As was customary, merchants were there as a service to the people to sell the animals used for sacrifice. What began as a service turned into abuse as they used the high demand for the animals to spike up the prices. Ridiculously high rates of exchange were being imposed for changing money. Seeing people being taken advantage of in the name of religion, Jesus was so furious that he made a whip and began to do some radical cleaning, overturning tables and ultimately driving out the offensive merchants.
Periodically our lives need a radical cleaning. Our lives get cluttered in ways that we never planned or deliberately pursued. Lent is a time to see where we might be leading overcrowded and cluttered lives. Whatever happened to that time we used to spend with our kids, our spouses, our good friends? Where did that time we used to spend in prayer go? Our lives only have so much space and so many hours. What is filling those spaces and hours? What kind of junk has accumulated that we may need to toss?
Radical cleaning is sometimes needed because what starts out as good can spoil. The temple practice of selling animals for sacrifice began as a service and went bad. Good food left in the refrigerator for too long eventually spoils. Parents’ initial love for their kids may end up with attempts to dominate their lives. The search for truth by religious people can turn into an intolerance of everyone who does not hold their point of view. Every life periodically needs a radical cleaning. Is it time?