A little girl once asked her father about the difference between anger and exasperation. "It's mostly a matter of degree," the dad replied. "Let me show you what I mean." With that the father picked up the phone and dialed a number at random. A man answered the phone and the father says, "Hello, is Homer there?" The man on the other end said, "I'm sorry, you must have the wrong number. There's nobody here by that name." The father hangs up and immediately hits redial, "Hello, is Homer there?" The man on the other end said, “Now listen up buddy, there's nobody here by that name so quit bothering me!" He then slams the phone down. “You see,” says the dad, “he is starting to get angry.” He hits redial again and the father asks calmly, “Yes, is Homer there?” A loud voice comes on the line and the man yells, “ARE YOU CRAZY? I TOLD YOU HOMER DOESN’T LIVE HER SO DON’T CALL BACK AGAIN!" And then he slams the phone down. "Did you hear that?" the father asked the little girl, "That is what anger sounds like. Now you're going to hear exasperation." He picked the phone up and hit redial again. "HELLO!" boomed the voice on the other end. "Hello" the dad says politely, "This is Homer, have I had any calls?"
Our anger shows what we really care about. Zeal for what belongs to God consumed our Lord. That is one of the reasons why Jesus made a whip out of cords and drove out the money changers. He spilled their coins and overturned their tables.
Jesus was angry at them because they made his Father’s House into their own temples. The house of God became a temple of greed. The house of God became a temple of materialism. The house of God became a temple of earthly desires.
The order of priorities and importance always follow the order of creation. First is God. Second are human beings. Then follows created things.
Our problems in life are compounded and our lives get complicated when we invert this order of creation. There is anger when there is a reversal of priorities.
When things are loved more than people, then we have a reason to be angry. When people are used instead of things, then we have a reason to be angry. And when God is set aside by those whom He created and loved, then there is a reason to be angry.
What makes us angry and what does not? Is there a reason to be angry at the irresponsible driver who cut us off in traffic? Or is there more reason to be angry because we barely lifted a finger in helping the needy? Is there a reason to be angry at the lady who took a long time checking out her grocery? Or is there more reason to be angry because our faith is stunted and crippled by our inaction and indifference? Is there a reason to be angry because we missed watching our favorite TV program? Or is there more reason to be angry because we have failed to develop our consciences, regressed in our faith, receded in our belief?
We need a heart that is more angry about the things of God than the things which hurt our pride. We need a heart that is more angry about what hurts God than the things which cradle our illusions. We need a heart that is more angry about what corrupts people than things that cater more to our fantasies and ambitions.
Jesus was also angry at them because they were still looking for signs. What other signs do they need? The signs He gave were already there in what He did and the words He had spoken.
The prophets said so. The Bible said so. They are signs. Jesus is the Word. No founder of any major religion in the world came on earth to die. No founder of any major religion in the world claimed to be God. And no founder of any major religion in the world saved us through crucifixion. Only Jesus. He is God.
Would Jesus be angry at us and overturn our tables of pride and unbelief, our tables of hatred and doubt, our tables of stubbornness and mistrust?
Every barrier, every hindrance, every obstacle that keeps us away from our Father, the Son does every effort to remove it. What separates us from God, Jesus overturns it. What divides us, Jesus unites. What tears us apart, Jesus joins together.
Lent is the time to let Jesus cleanse our hearts like he did the temple. Unless we destroy the ills of modern society—hedonism, individualism and materialism, only then can Christ build us into something better, newer and holier. Lent is the time to overturn our tables of iniquity and sin. Unless we go beyond transactions and arrive at transformations, doubt to faith, indifference to action, only then can Christ build us a true temple.
Lent is the time to recognize the sign and the Person whose saving actions and Word are more than enough. Not Homer. It is Jesus, the Christ.
11 March 2012