Every Sunday morning in Lent you will receive, as you are receiving here, a Meditation to activate your prayerful interest in the Gospel text chosen in the Catholic Lectionary. What is offered you each Sunday follows the pattern that you see below: Text, Points, Quotation, and Habit to Practice. A “point” for Prayer is a “location” in the biblical text to perceive more attentively, or a single thought to consider arising from that text. A “point” is meant to slow you down, to pique your interest in an effort of attention to the scripture which the Spirit desires for you to be “living and effective.”
Text: John 2:12-22 (quoted in part) –
12 *After this, he and his mother, [his] brothers, and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days. 13 Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,* as well as the money-changers seated there.g 15 He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, 16 and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”h 17 …. 23 While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.m 24 But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, 25 and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.n 
First Point – In the movie Tender Mercies (released 4 March 1983) there is a scene where Robert Duvall sings a hymn called “Wings of a Dove.” Duvall prays it while looking out through a brightly sunlit window towards the endless prairie. Four times the chorus repeats:
On the wings of a snow-white dove
He sends His pure sweet love
A sign from above (sign from above)
On the wings of a dove (wings of a dove)
God prefers, as does an artist who has his or her favorite colors with which to paint, certain animals that He created to stand in for Him, to symbolize something essential about how He feels the truth of Himself in the midst of human beings living in the world He created. (I love this idea that we can recognize God’s preferences.) Ferguson’s lyric speaks of the dove that Noah sent out over the flooded Earth, which returns with an olive leaf in its beak – “God sent His love / on the wings of a dove”. Later performers (Dolly Parton and Porter Wagner) added another stanza about the dove that descended at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan – “the Spirit of God descending like a dove / and coming upon Him.” Gaining insight over time into someone’s preferences is a joyful work of friendship. It is about growing familiar with him or her, learning to recognize certain turns of phrase that he or she uses (e.g., “Amen, Amen, I say to you”), identifying his or her favorite color (did Jesus have a favorite color?), noticing the kind of animal he or she chooses to be a pet (was Jesus good with animals?). We gain insight into a person, our friend, when we have become students of his or her preferences. The Father preferred a dove – even “a snow-white dove”, not a camel or oxen, as the best way to express the Holy Spirit’s presence, when He sent a very special message of love to His beloved Son at the Jordan River.
Second Point – There is wide and deep attestation in biblical scholarship, and other spiritual writings, concerning this famous (notorious?) moment in Jesus’ public life, which reveals how we humans are uncomfortable with the anger of Jesus. “That man has a real temper!” The love of the “sweet” Jesus – “He sends His pure, sweet love” – seems undermined, or made less convincing, to Christians. I see versions of such spiritual anxiety regularly expressed in people coming for Spiritual Direction. Somehow people overlook the fact that it is because Jesus loves so strongly, purely and sweetly whom or what He loves, that he can be provoked … as we see him being in the Temple (John 2:12-22) – “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (John 2:16). Now, putting aside any of the profound and wide-reaching theological issues meant to explain Jesus’ actions at the Temple that day, all of which have been raised and thought about for centuries, let us consider something apparently less profound … but possibly more revealing about Jesus, as we wonder what in particular provoked him.
Point Three – Let us consider the doves. He saw doves in the Temple that day, a favorite animal preferred by His Father. He saw them in cages, and being sold. I am reminded, as I think of Jesus seeing those doves, of the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, “The Caged Skylark”, whose opening lines are these:
As a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage,
Man’s mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells —
That bird beyond the remembering his free fells;
This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life’s age.
Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage
Both sing sometímes the sweetest, sweetest spells,
Yet both droop deadly sómetimes in their cells
Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage.
When Jesus noticed those doves caged and sold, a bird that his Father had just chosen to communicate to him at his Baptism so special an acknowledgment (John 1:32 – “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain on Him”) … well, it must have really stung Jesus, hit a nerve. Jesus explicitly associates “dove” and his “Father” in the line, “and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace’” (John 2:16). Jesus noticed how religion (a failed kind) has a propensity to put into cages what was meant by God to be left, or set, free, and a predilection for commodifying what never should be priced, and sold. Recall what later Jesus would state – “I no longer call you slaves [caged, sold], because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15)
Quotation: Gilbert Keith (GK) Chesterton
“Faith is unfashionable, and it is customary on every side to cast against it the fact that it is a paradox. Everybody mockingly repeats the famous childish definition that faith is “the power of believing that which we know to be untrue.” Yet it is not one atom more paradoxical than hope or charity. Charity is the power of defending that which we know to be indefensible. Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.”
Habit to practice during the Third Week of Lent:
This week it is about being a kind of anthropologist in your own home. Be especially alert to how your family has identified certain physical objects as especially precious, carrying a meaning for the family far beyond what in fact each object is. It appears that God had a special affection for doves and sheep, whose meaning for Him is far more than what each particular animal is. This Third Week of Lent notice the precious objects in your home. Can you remember, and even more, re-feel the meaning of this symbol? Does everyone in your home understand that object/symbol in the same way? This Third Week of Lent seek attunement with these central symbols in your home.
 “A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the worship of the people of God. Lectionaries were known and used in the fourth century, where major churches arranged the Scripture readings according to a schedule which follows the calendar of the church’s year. This practice of assigning particular readings to each Sunday and festival has continued through the history of the Christian Church.”
 Hebrews 4:12 – “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (NABRE)
* The next three episodes take place in Jerusalem. Only the first is paralleled in the synoptic gospels.
* Oxen, sheep, and doves: intended for sacrifice. The doves were the offerings of the poor (Lv 5:7). Money-changers: for a temple tax paid by every male Jew more than nineteen years of age, with a half-shekel coin (Ex 30:11–16), in Syrian currency. See note on Mt 17:24.
g Ex 30:11–16; Lv 5:7.
h Zec 14:21.
n 1 Kgs 8:39; Ps 33:15; 94:11; Sir 42:18; Jer 17:10; 20:12.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 2:12–25.
 Wikipedia notes: “‘Wings of a Dove’ is a country song written by Bob Ferguson in 1958. ‘Wings of a Dove’ was most popular when it was recorded by Ferlin Husky in 1960. The Ferlin Husky recording went to number one on the country charts for 10 non-consecutive weeks…. The song alludes to several passages from the Christian Bible about doves sent by the Lord, including a verse about God sending Noah a dove during the flood in Genesis 8:6-12. Dolly Parton’s and Porter Wagner’s cover versions include a verse not in the original, referring to another passage about a dove in Matthew 3:16 where ‘After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.’”
 The phrases in parentheses indicate where the main singer is echoed by an accompanying chorus, making the hymn antiphonal – a singing back and forth creating a kind of sung conversation.
 Recall that iridescent blue favored by Fra Angelico (1395-1455, early Renaissance Italian painter of Florence). See https://hyperallergic.com/315564/lapis-lazuli-a-blue-more-precious-than-gold/ – “Vermeer followed artists like Fra Angelico who created dazzling religious icons in the 15th century (lapis lazuli is still sometimes called “Fra Angelico blue”), and Michelangelo, who used the Vatican coffers to order huge quantities of it for his 1536–41 “Last Judgment” fresco in the Sistine Chapel. Around the same time, Titian illuminated his 1520–30 “Bacchus and Ariadne” with a lapis lazuli blue sky and wind-blown garments on his mythical figures.”
 Another animal that God both made and chooses to symbolize Himself in the Bible is a sheep, or a lamb. Recall that in lines coming before our text here we hear John the Baptist identifying Jesus for all to hear, or perhaps quietly, under his breath (we do not know), in this way: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
 St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica Part III, 39, article 7 addresses how fitting it is that God Who created all things chose something in particular from the created world, in this case a dove, to signify His divine presence as Holy Spirit: “I answer that, As stated above (Q. V., A. 1), it was unbecoming that the Son of God, Who is the Truth of the Father, should make use of anything unreal; wherefore He took, not an imaginary, but a real body. And since the Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of Truth, as appears from John 16:13, therefore He too made a real dove in which to appear, though He did not assume it into unity of person.”
 Pheme Perkins, “Dove,” ed. Mark Allan Powell, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 203. “Three varieties of the small species of pigeon identified as turtledoves were known in the ancient Near East. Noah used doves to determine if the flood had subsided (Gen. 8:8–12). Lev. 12:8 prescribes the offering of a pair of doves or two young pigeons to purify a mother after childbirth if the family could not afford a lamb. Doves for such offerings were sold in the temple court (Mark 11:15; John 2:14). Mary made this offering after the birth of Jesus, a sign of the family’s poverty (Luke 2:4). In the Song of Solomon, two lovers like to refer to each other as “my dove” (2:14; 5:2, 6:9) and to say that their lover’s eyes are “like doves” (1:15; 4:1; 5:12). There are also poetic or figurative references to the moaning of doves (Isa. 38:14; 59:11; Ezek. 7:16; Nah. 2:7) and to the wings of doves (Pss. 55:6; 68:13). To be “like a dove” may mean to be homeless (Jer. 48:28; Ezek. 7:16), to be silly (Hos. 7:11), or to be innocent (Matt. 10:16). The stories of Jesus’s baptism all describe the descent of the Holy Spirit as being like that of a dove (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32).”
 Genesis 8:8-11.
 For example, Matthew 3:16.
 Whatever the source of the cultural meme – WWJD or “What would Jesus do?” – it suggests us acting according to a growing awareness of Jesus’ preferences.
 One of the G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) poems that I like the best, and which he considered one of his best, is “The Donkey.” In this case, it is the donkey who is good with humans – with Jesus the God-Man in particular – rather than us being given to see how good Jesus was with the donkey. Find a copy of this charming poem at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47918/the-donkey.
 Though “notorious” originally meant (c 1495) “well known; a matter of common knowledge”, the Oxford English Dictionary notes that later, and in current usage, it has come to mean – “Of a criminal, sinner, etc.: noted or well known in that capacity; infamous.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “anxiety” – “Worry over the future or about something with an uncertain outcome; uneasy concern about a person, situation, etc.; a troubled state of mind arising from such worry or concern.”
 In my experience, people regularly conclude that “true love” and “anger” must cancel each other out, such that if God, for example, can get angry with me, then God must not really love me. One famous instance of this human mistake about such emotions (or better, these value-laden affections) appeared early on in Christianity (e.g., Marcion) who argued for a clear break between “the God of the Old Testament” (God is always angry) and “the God of New Testament” (God is loving and kind).
 He also saw sheep, another favorite animal of His Father, penned up, corralled, and being sold.
 Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ (1844-1889) was one of the greatest of the poets of the Victorian (British) Era. See, for example: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/gerard-manley-hopkins.
 For example: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44391/the-caged-skylark
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “propensity” – “A predisposition or inclination to, towards, or for a particular action, habit, quality, etc.; a tendency to do something.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “predilection” – “A preference or particular liking for something; a bias in favour of something; a predisposition, a proclivity.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at “paradox” – “An apparently absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition, or a strongly counter-intuitive one, which investigation, analysis, or explanation may nevertheless prove to be well-founded or true.”
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