Lent Devotions: Monday cleaning

Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).    

By Adlai J. Amor

Matthew 21:17-17

I grew up in the Philippines surrounded by an extended family who are staunch members of the Philippine Independent Church (in communion with the Anglican Church). Religion was always taken seriously, especially during Holy Week. We could miss masses and prayers the rest of the year, but Holy Week was not to be trifled with. It was time to be spent going to church — all seven days — in addition to novenas, processions, and other religious traditions.

I am reminded of them today, as I start observing Holy Week in America at a different period in my life. The story of Jesus cleaning the temple was often the basis of the homilies preached by the priests. We would live the story by cleaning our sanctuary and draping the statues and the cross with black cloth. We cleaned ourselves — by confessing our sins — for the holiest of days in the Christian calendar.

As I grew in my faith, cleaning on the Monday of Holy Week took a deeper meaning. In today’s reading, Matthew reminds us of how Jesus went beyond cleaning the temple of moneychangers and vendors. He cleaned it so it can also heal the sick, grant sight to the blind, and make the lame walk.

It is clear that Jesus invites us to convert our sanctuaries to be not just places of worship, but also places where we can act on our faith. Jesus invites us to make our sanctuaries beacons of social justice in our world today.

In a world where inequalities between the rich and the poor are vast, Jesus invites us to narrow this yawning gap. In a country where racism is rampant, Jesus invites us to eliminate this evil. For a Congress more intent on serving the rich and politically powerful, Jesus invites to speak up, with, and on behalf of people who are powerless, and without voice.

By cleaning the temple, Jesus invites us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Adlai J. Amor is vice-chair of the board of trustees at San Francisco Theological Seminary and director of communications and marketing at Bread for the World.

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