By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“Open your heart to Jesus’ mercy! Say: ‘Jesus… Come, cleanse. Cleanse with Your mercy, with Your tender words, cleanse with Your caresses’. If we open our heart to Jesus’ mercy, in order to cleanse our heart, our soul, Jesus will trust Himself to us.”
I remember as a child during a catechism lesson in Chaguanas in preparation for First Communion, how terrified I was when the catechist read from John 2:13–25, the cleansing of the Temple.
I had loved hearing about how Jesus had transformed water into wine at the Marriage at Cana (Jn 2:1–12), His first miracle. But the image of Jesus with His whip driving out those who took advantage of the sacred temple to do their business, profiting from selling animals for sacrifice and changing coins at exorbitant fees, was one that seemed terrifying to my childhood sensibilities.
Pope Francis reminds us that worship and liturgical celebrations are “a privileged environment for listening to the Lord’s voice, which guides us on the path of righteousness and of Christian perfection.”
We go to Church “to encounter the Lord.” He says Jesus’ act of cleansing and “purification” is a reminder of the need for authenticity in worship. More than a “doctrine” or a “rite to be executed”, the liturgy, he says, is “fundamentally a source of life and light for our faith.”
And when, as a child, I heard the catechist refer to the part of this Gospel that states that Jesus “could tell what a man had in him”, well, boy, I cringed! We were asked to reflect on all the things that we may have done that Jesus would not have been pleased about, things which we thought no one else would know.
I immediately thought of the fudge that I had stolen at home that very morning! My mother was the best “fudge-maker”. She had given each of us, her seven children, one fudge, and we were told that we should not take any more, and that she would distribute the rest at intervals to prevent us from getting dental cavities. Sadly, I fell for the temptation of taking a fudge.
But you know, because of the values that my parents had been striving to inculcate in us, every bite I took, reminded me of my misdemeanour. As I grew older, and as my faith deepened, I embraced Christian values and virtues more fully. This does not mean that I am a saint – yet! Each of us will spend a lifetime on the journey to sainthood.
Pope Francis says: “Jesus knows all that there is in our heart. We cannot deceive Jesus. In front of Him, we cannot pretend to be saints, and close our eyes, act like this, and then live a life that is not what He wants…It will do us good today, to enter our hearts… If you tell Him: ‘I’m a sinner’, it doesn’t scare Him. What distances Him is one who is two-faced: showing him/herself as just in order to cover up hidden sin. ‘But I go to church, every Sunday, and I…’. Yes, we can say all of this. But if your heart isn’t just, if you don’t do justice, if you don’t love those who need love, if you do not live according to the spirit of the Beatitudes, you are not Catholic; you are a hypocrite. First: can Jesus trust Himself to me? In prayer, let us ask Him: ‘Lord, do You trust me?’”
If we want Jesus to trust us, the Holy Father urges us to open the door to our hearts and ask God to cleanse our soul of unclean things e.g., “sins of selfishness, of arrogance, pride, greed, envy, jealousy… so many sins!”
And Pope Francis puts our minds at rest when he says: “We imagine that He comes with a whip of cords…. No, He doesn’t cleanse the soul with that! Do you know what kind of whip Jesus uses to cleanse our soul? Mercy.”
So, during our Lenten journey, this period of conversion/interior renewal, let us do as the Holy Father asks and reflect on the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament, says Pope Francis “helps us grow in union with God, regain lost joy, and experience the consolation of feeling personally welcomed by the merciful embrace of the Father.”
May our zeal for the Lord be evident by the way we live our lives.
The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth due to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner, and that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone. (32)
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee