13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
I am not the best housekeeper ever, while my house is not cluttered, with two dogs and four cats, two other people in the house, and not much time, it is not unusual to see a tumbleweed of pet hair rolling across the floor, or dirty dishes in the sink. The counters, the coffee table littered with mail and papers, and the fridge is often in need of a good cleaning!
This is one appliance that seems to get the short-shrift, as once the door is closed, I cannot see the mess; however, this only works so long, and eventually I have no choice but to clean it out.
First I remove all the food and do an inventory, separating out what has spoiled like solidified milk, desiccated strawberries or oranges, ancient broccoli stalks and jars of jam that were almost emptied months before. As I go through the items on the shelves, it often strikes me how something that used to be so useful and good for us, has now turned bad and would make us sick if eaten.
Next I take out the shelves and drawers to clean them with dish soap and water, removing the memories of past meals and spills and making them shine again. Then, I will clean out the inside of the fridge, picking up pieces of food that fell to the bottom and wiping up additional spills.
Finally, when all is clean, I will put the fridge back together, and replace the food I want to keep, while disposing of those things that are no longer any good, and only serve to make the whole fridge smell bad!
This is what Jesus was doing in today’s gospel story: cleaning house, getting rid of what was not working, and in fact making the whole house of God smell bad (remember there were animals being sold in the temple as well as money changing). Having the money changers and merchants in the temple made it more of a shopping mall than a church, a place of commerce rather than a place of faith, a place where money was taken, people were treated dishonestly and the worship of God was all but forgotten in the fog of profits! So Jesus had no choice but to clean house!
Okay, you may be asking what does this have to do with us, as single parents?
While there is the very practical task of keeping our homes clean, a difficult task all by itself, often we need to do a deeper cleaning, just as when Jesus cleansed the temple, which was more about just clearing the courtyard, but about restoring the sanctity of God’s house, which is also our house!
And as we know, our houses can get very messy!
We can get caught up in conflicts with our kids, ex’s and others, we can get stuck in patterns of behavior that do not work for us, and instead actually work against our best interests. We can also get bogged down with troubles at work (or due to lack of work), regrets for the past and worries about the future.
We can let these struggles pile up and get in the way of moving us forward in life, and in the way of making better choices for ourselves and our children. When overwhelmed by these messes, we often have no choice but to clean house. Just as when I clean my fridge, we too can inventory all we have, and then separate what is good from what has spoiled, and get rid of everything that is stinking up our homes, in order to make room to try new ways of doing things: new ideas and new tactics for helping our kids deal with life, and helping us to deal with being parents!
For example, in the past, when my daughter got into trouble or did something I did not approve of I would get really frustrated, and start off by talking to her sternly, which soon fell to yelling, and then screaming, and then hurt feelings and left us nothing being resolved as all we did was fight and the problem that caused the fight was actually forgotten. Today, I have learned (well mostly learned) that this does not work, and when I begin to lose my temper, or start repeating what I have said over and over again, I know that there is no more hope for progress, I will just let it go until we cool off.
I have learned to pick and choose my battles, and also learned to accept some of the things I cannot change, and while things are not perfect (or exactly the way I like) they are so much better than they were. No longer do we have the loud arguments and thrown furniture, and we have regained a level of respect for each other (love has never been in doubt).
Sometimes we simply have to do a good house-cleaning, to inventory all that we have, to discover what we should keep and what is no longer working for us. This can be a messy task, but it is a necessary part of our lives as parents, called to raise our children with love and in the light of God’s grace. The good news is that we do not have to this housekeeping alone, our children can help us to separate the good from the bad, and to clean up the messes we have made between ourselves, friends, family and professionals can also help us to find new ways of keeping our homes clean and happier places.
And we have the greatest house-cleaning of them all, as it is Jesus who walks with us! The one who cleansed and restored the house of God, is alive and active with us today, cleansing and restoring our hearts, our lives and our homes…no matter how messy they have become, because when we raise our children in the light of Christ our home can also become the house of God: a place where love triumphs above all else!
Let Us Pray:
God, thank you for giving us the tools and the love that we need to clean house. Please give us the courage and faith to take on this task when it is needed needed (even if we do not always want to it). Fill us with your wisdom and compassion as we take an inventory of what works and what stinks and help us to learn from our mistakes, and to not be reluctant to ask for help from others or from you. Help us to keep our homes clean and to make our families part of the house of God, a place of love and respect, as well as forgiveness…a place where you live and the light of Christ shines brightly.