FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Third Sunday of Lent (B)
Ex 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17 | Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11 | 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 | John 2:13-25
Today’s readings teach us that Lent is the ideal time for seeing the Ten Commandments as invitation to build relationships, understanding the wisdom and power of the cross and cleaning out the Temple of our own hearts.
Catechist Zia was teaching the Ten Commandments to her five and six year-olds. After explaining the commandment to "honor thy father and thy mother," she asked," Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?" One little boy shouted, "Thou shall not kill."
The First Reading presents the core of the Israelite Law, known as the “Decalogue”, or simply “the Ten Commandments”. The Decalogue and some 613 commandments in the Torah played a central and fundamental role in shaping the lives of the Jewish people. They were not just static rules of conduct, but a guide on how to be God’s people, and how to manifest this identity through appropriate relationships with God, and with fellow members of the community. The problem with these instructions is that we often see them as rules, imposed to limit our freedom and constrain our behavior. The law is a sign of the closeness of God, and is a reminder of the special relationship that existed between God and Israel. The law was an invitation into a relationship. There will always be rules in any kind of relationships and these rules must not enslave us but make us more free to love. The Ten Commandments are all about love — I am your only deliverer, the One who loves and chooses you; Love me exclusively; Regard my love as sacred; Rest in me; Honor your life and its history. Do no harm to others: Forsake anger, Abandon lust, Renounce greed, and Abhor lying. Refuse envy — One who does not seek to live by the Ten Commandments does not simply have a problem with the law. He or she has a problem with love.
To demonstrate God’s love, Fr. Dexter, a Franciscan friar, announced he would be preaching next Sunday evening on John 3:16. As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the church windows, the congregation gathered. In the darkness of the altar, the friar lit a candle and carried it to the crucifix. First of all, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the pulpit. There was nothing else to say.
Wisdom and power are the goals we seek. Many people spend the first part of their lives gaining wisdom in school and the rest of their lives gaining power at work. The crucified Christ was a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. On the one hand, the Jews were expecting signs to be performed by the Messiah. They expect him to be the glorious and powerful king who would conquer the rulers of the world and place the Jews in triumph over their oppressors. On the other extreme, the Greeks always required something that would appeal to their reason and human intelligence. For them, it seemed opposed to wisdom that the Messiah could suffer such a horrible and ignominious death. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul makes an attempt to restore order in the divided community by preaching counter-cultural theology of the cross. The apostle Paul taught that Jesus crucified, is neither scandal nor foolishness but signs of God's wisdom and power. Paul says, “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Through the cross, God revealed the power of the Resurrection. Through the cross, God showed the wisdom of sacrifice. The cross was a message that the Corinthians struggled to grasp. Only believers can penetrate the wisdom behind the folly, and the power behind the weakness of the cross.
Marinella, a young mother and Samantha, her little girl were driving down the street. The little girl asked, “Mommy, why do the idiots only come out when Daddy drives?”
If we were to take a quick poll this morning everyone of us in here would have to admit that at some time in our lives we have become angry. In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus making a literal whip and chasing money-changers and sellers out of the temple, destroying their wares in the process. He says that he will destroy the temple and raise it up again. Wow, Jesus was angry. That must have been quite a scene! What’s critical, here, is that we must understand what sort of anger Jesus demonstrated — righteous indignation. This is the type of anger one feels regarding injustices in society: corruption, peddling of fake news, lost territory in West Philippine Sea, recycling compromised government officials, P15-B 'missing' funds, expensive vaccines with low efficacy rate of 50%, etc. Anger is healthy when it helps someone to identify the offense and lead him or her to deal with it in a constructive way. Normally when we speak of anger we mean a passion that is out of control and, in fact, controls us. It’s the loss of control and is a sin. But this is not the anger Jesus had. Jesus was angry because of ungodly people or activities. He denounced a temple that concentrated power in service of the privileged, took advantage of some, and condemned and excluded others. The Scriptures make it clear that anger is possible without sinning. To be godly means to be like God. And because God is a God who loves justice, it is godly to love justice. Like God, we are to have a righteous anger against evil and injustice, an anger that is rooted in love for what is good and just. We should be angry at injustice because God is angry at injustice. So let me say this again. It is godly to be righteously angry at injustice and to let that righteous anger fuel us in our pursuit of justice. Jesus' anger was an anger that resulted from His perfect love. He claimed that his mission was to fulfill the law — to demonstrate its deepest meaning as a guide to loving like God loves. Finally, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And one of his Scriptural commands is, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). <enrique, ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum