What if there existed a test that could tell you who you were destined to fall in love with?
What if genetics and neurology had developed to such a degree that in the future experts could test you, and find the one person in the world who was intended for you, the one person scientifically proven to be most suited to falling in love and spending their whole life with you?
It would certainly make dating an awful lot simpler, but would that really be love?
That’s the premise of an absolutely terrific Netflix series I’ve recently become pretty addicted to. It’s called Soulmates. It might sound far-fetched, but it prompts you to ask all sorts of questions about fate, love, relationships, and happiness.
People who have been married for years suddenly find someone on the other side of the globe whom the scientists tell them is their soulmate, and they dump their spouses and families and rush off to find their new loves. Without revealing any of the plot twists, I can say that the series reveals, of course, that life and love are nowhere near as easy as that, and the Soulmate test is not the solution to everyone’s problems which it seemed to be.
It does prompt you to think, though: what if everything I thought I knew about the loving relationships in my life were suddenly turned on its head? What if everything I thought I relied on for love and emotional wellbeing were suddenly taken away, and a completely new way of loving burst into my life?
One can’t help but imagine that will have been the feeling that many inhabitants of Judaea will have had when Jesus’ public ministry emerged onto the scene. For they were used to thinking of their love relationship with God in certain set, predictable ways.
God had revealed himself to Israel through the Ten Commandments and the Law, which we heard in our first reading. He also revealed himself through the worship of the Jerusalem Temple. Yahweh’s presence dwelled in the Holy of Holies in the physical midst of the temple complex. This sense of his concrete geographic presence in Jerusalem signified the way in which God’s people Israel had access to the divine through the covenant God had made with them. And this was lived out in the cultic life of the Temple through the offering of sacrifices through the year.
First Century Jews knew who their God was and where he was to be found.
And yet, in the life of Jesus a different experience of what it means to be in relationship with the God of Israel emerges. In our Gospel reading today, he violently cleanses the temple, and drives out those who made money there from its cultic life.
He implies through his words that God will increasingly be found somewhere else. Rather than living in a written Law and a physical building, God is to be found in a person – Jesus Christ himself. Jesus will be the temple where humanity and God meet and where our access to the divine is assured.
The upturning of those tables stands as a metaphor for the upturning of our understanding of God and his love for us which we experience in Jesus Christ. For if God is made present in a person, then the relationship he has with humanity is something everyone can share. And the love that God has for us is so great, so immense that he will give his very self for us and share in our human existence.
In many ways that scene in the temple which we hear about today stands as a metaphor for the whole of Jesus’ ministry. The upending of the tables stands as an image for the way in which we have to upend our limited understanding of love in order to grasp what God offers us in Christ. The driving out of money changes symbolises the shallow human conception of God’s presence that must be driven out of our minds if we are to contemplate God incarnate in Christ.
For the mystery we are about to celebrate in a few weeks’ time during Holy Week is one which reveals a divine love for us so deep we can hardly fathom it, and a God who gives himself to us so completely that we barely conceive of it as possible.
Fr Peter Anthony