Imagining the Gospel Scene: Moneychangers in the Temple

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“Imagining the Gospel Scene” is a series from the Jesuit Media Lab. On occasional Sundays throughout this liturgical year, creators in the JML community will respond to the day’s Gospel passage through the practice of Ignatian contemplation, or what is sometimes called “imaginative prayer.”

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola invites participants to place ourselves in Gospel scenes using the imagination, relying on our senses to develop a distinctive, personal perspective on a given story — and thereby getting to know Christ better. After praying with the Gospel using their imaginations, our contributors will create a piece of art flowing from their experience — a painting, poem, short story, song, photograph or work in another medium.

Third Sunday of Lent
March 3, 2024: John 2:13-25

So the rumors are true. He really does say and do things no one else seems to say or do. I’ve heard the stories, the gossip, the interpretations. And now, there he is, overturning tables, saying wild things about tearing down temples and building them back up. He’s going to get in trouble for doing what he’s doing.

An observation: He’s a lot smaller than I thought he’d be. The stories make him seem so much larger than life, but I can see he really had to put some oomph into tipping that table over. I was close enough to see a vein pulse in his neck. It didn’t come easily to him, the turning.

Still, the guy sure has a way of changing the atmospheric pressure in a room. Everybody in the space is aware of him, his every move, even the people like me who are pretending they aren’t looking at him, even cussing him out under their breath because selling my pigeons and feeding my family will be harder for his disruption.

On his way out the door, he gives me eye contact, sees my curiosity. For all his anger on display here, his eyes are soft, maybe a little weary.

I have no idea what to make of him. It’s so hard to separate the man from the stories about the man. I want to forget everything I’ve ever heard about him and meet him in the moment, tell him I can see how hard things are, that I understand what it’s like when something is heavier and more difficult than you originally thought it might be. 

Artwork: “Driving of the Merchants From the Temple” by Scarsellino, public domain