REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn, one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art (1606-1669), portrays this Sunday’s Gospel in his painting, Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temple, with vividness, realism, passion, and conviction.
It’s the exact message that the Gospel of John conveys. Jesus came to fulfill his Father’s will and mission with consuming energy, zeal, conviction, confidence, and passion.
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” Jesus told the Jews. He said these words after he reprimanded them for making his Father’s house into a house of trade. The Jews could not understand what he meant, and so they responded, “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you will raise it up in three days?”
His disciples and those who believed in him as the Son of God knew what he meant. His body would be the new temple, which will be destroyed and raised up in three days (referring to his resurrection). Jesus Christ would be the new offering, the ultimate sacrifice to the Father as the expression of man’s full obedience and allegiance to God. In sacrificing himself on the cross, he would bring the whole humankind to himself, reconciling it with God and bringing it redemption.
As the Gospel of John and Rembrandt’s painting portrays, Jesus did his mission with passion, zeal, and confidence. There was no turning back, no fear, weakness, uncertainty, and hesitation. This mission consumed him and led him to the cross to suffer and to die—all for the sake of his Father’s will to save his people from sin and eternal death.
Would this be the same call for us—to manifest the same zeal, passion, and conviction in our Christian faith and life? Isn’t this what is often lacking in our lives? No matter what bullying, intimidation, disdain, and dominance other people do to us to destroy our Christian faith, we must live it out in words and actions truthfully and powerfully.
It’s the innermost desire that many of our seminarians show. Tired of shallowness and mediocrity in faith, they want zeal, substance, and passion in ministry and life. They see the need to evangelize and educate people to follow the truth of the Gospel. With guidance to balance their enthusiasm and conviction with mercy and prudence, they can achieve this vision of Christian faith and life.
It’s also the call of Lent. Jesus urges us to change our ways by turning and listening to him for life, direction, and wisdom. Jesus wants a radical conversion of life where his Gospel is lived day-in and day-out even in the politics and economy.
Let the words of Jesus penetrate our lives to build up this new energy and conviction in us despite the struggles, temptations, challenges, and tensions of living our Christian faith authentically. Let the Person of Jesus—his life, death, and resurrection—fill our minds and hearts with confidence to fulfill the will of our Father in heaven. Amen.
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.