Focusing on Persons

March 3, 2024; John 2:13-25; Third Sunday of Lent

The Jewish temple at the time of Jesus, was being rebuilt by Herod the Great. It was an architectural marvel of the ancient world. The historian Josephus says that as you approached the temple from afar, it appeared like a mountain covered in snow, because every part of the temple that was not embellished with gold was made out of pure white stone. Knowing this, it is understandable that those who saw Herod’s temple were mesmerized by it.

This is the case in today’s gospel. After Jesus drives out the merchants and the money changers, he says to those who question him, “Destory this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The evangelist tells us that Jesus was referring to the temple of his body, how he would rise from the dead after three days. But that is not how those listening to Jesus understood His words. They thought that he was referring to the glorious building that surrounded him. In other words, they mistook a reference to a person for a reference to an architectural wonder. They focused on Herod’s temple rather than the person of Jesus who stood before them.

In this way, today’s gospel reminds us of the fundamental value of every human person. A human person is more important than any other value regardless how grand and impressive it might be. This is of course why we, as a church, are committed to protect human life in the womb. It is also why we are opposed to use of the death penalty, even for the most hardened criminals. But the value of human life is not limited to the great moral issues of our day. It has relevance to our day to day living because each day we can be distracted from the fundamental importance of human life. How easy it is for us to focus on our children’s achievments or abilities, their grades or their athletic efforts, and forget that each child is a unique individual with a personality that calls to be heard, guided and loved. How easy it is for us to be caught up with our spouse in finding a new home, planning a vacation, or living out our social calendar and forget the unique person that we married and why we loved that person in the first place. How easily can we become fixated with our failures, a rejection by someone we trusted, a mistake that haunts us, and forget that dispite all of our flaws we remain a uniquely valuable person whom God has created and loved.

Each one of us is a person of value, and we live our lives with other persons of value. That is why we must not be distracted by things of lesser value as impressive or grand as they may be. Each person we encounter, each person  who is—including ourselves—is a unique gift that God has given to the world.

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