A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Not the mild mannered Jesus

For many years, the basic image I had of Jesus was that he was meek and mild, compassionate and understanding.  His way of dealing with “jerks” was with “verbal-fencing”, and he seemed to win.  Not a man of violence.

Then one day, I came across the Gospel reading (John 2:13-22) and was surprised.  Jesus, with whip in hand, threw out the animal merchants and  money changers from the Temple area. Besides, the Gospel tells us that Jesus overturned the table of the money-changers thus spilling the coins, and crying out “Take these things out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  What happened to the mild mannered Jesus?

Jesus was upset by what the animal sellers and money changers were doing in the Temple area, so his anger turned into action.  The Gospel describes that: he made a whip, drove out the merchants, spilled the coins of the money changers by overturning the tables, and gave a reason for his actions.  Genuine emotions became actions.

What can we learn from this?  Above all, it would be well to maintain the same principle just mentioned:  “Genuine emotions become actions.”  What would this mean?  Certainly, if we become aware of an injustice being perpetrated (genuine emotion), then that emotion should be turned into action.  

However, there must be a crucial distinction regarding the emotion.  Is it intellectual or motivational?  In an “intellectual emotion” we become aware of an injustice, but do nothing.  In a “motivational emotion” we become aware of an injustice and do something, as Jesus did in the above Gospel.

And yet, if we are dealing with a “motivational emotion,” our parameters of action should be guided by compassion and love.  “Compassion” (from the Latin which means “To suffer with”) strongly suggests that we suffer with the person who is suffering.  That kind of suffering sharing most certainly will lead into action.

“Love,” in reality, is a giving and not a taking.  One readily remembers the Scripture saying, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.”  There are many examples of what people will do for others if they truly love them, for example, parents and children, spouses, and the list could go on.

So, the Gospel above is telling us about the importance of how genuine emotion should turn into action.  We should be aware that our emotion is genuine if it is motivated by compassion and love, especially if we are confronted by injustice.  May our Baptism help us to “suffer with” others so that we can actually help them.

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