Bright Friday – The Zeal of FaithFr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is risen!
“What would Jesus do?” That phrase was popular a few years ago, and I confess to being amused by this fad of “easy religion.” One of the main reasons was that the life of Jesus is not easily categorized as the comfortable “Jesus” we moderns would prefer. You know the “Jesus” I’m talking about: The “meek” Jesus that pats everyone on the head and tells them they are “OK, just like you are.” The Jesus of modern therapy that gets us “in touch with our feelings.” The Jesus that has all the little children come and sit on his lap and wouldn’t dare tell anyone that they were wrong. Unless, of course, he was telling those “mean, judgmental” people how wrong they were! That’s OK for “modern Jesus” to scold and condemn “those people!”
We forget all too often that Jesus had times in His ministry where He was very “unJesusLike” at times. We confront a Lord Who cleansed the Temple of commerce because they were encroaching on a section of the Temple meant to be a place where even Gentiles could learn of the God of the Temple.
Look at our Gospel Lesson for this Bright Friday in John 2:12-22:
At that time, Jesus came to Capernaum with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days.
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.
The scene is set. The Lord and His family were in the city to attend the Passover liturgies of the Temple and there Jesus finds these “businesses” operating in the part of the Temple called “the Court of the Gentiles.” This was a section of the Temple grounds reserved for the strangers and non-Jews so even those who weren’t part of the faith could get as close as they could to learn of the faith from the Temple actions. This was the place of hospitality to the “strangers” that was enshrined in the teachings of the Law. And the faith had become so exclusive and ethnic, there was “no room” for the “strangers” there anymore! And Jesus takes great offense to this breach of hospitality!
It is no mistake in our Divine Liturgy that part of the preparation of the Holy Chalice at the Eucharist has the priest pour hot water into the wine and water of the Chalice with these words: “The zeal of faith, full of the Holy Spirit”. It is precisely the “zeal” of the faith; that warm love and devotion to the faith; that enlivens and fills the Church with wise action and faithfulness. How cold the faith is when it is practiced out of some mere habit or some lingering “nostalgia” of “how it use to be.” No wonder that kind of “cold” faith just doesn’t survive in the hearts of the next generation.
Today, where is your “zeal” for the faith? Is your faith “hot” or cold? The only path to keep your faith “hot” is by daily focus and attention and all we have to do to rekindle that warmth is to stay close to the “fire” of God’s presence. Why not let the afterglow of Pascha that makes this Bright Week so precious, warm the faith of your heart to the point that your whole life is warmed by a renewed devotion and zeal for the Lord’s House? Before you know it, you’ll be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. As we finish up this Bright week with worship this weekend, I want to encourage you to truly value and honor your local parish. Where would your faith be if it weren’t for that parish and parish priest in your life? Perhaps it’s time to show your gratitude by becoming a regular face in your parish community!