3rd Sunday of Lent (Ex 20: 1-3, 7-8, 12-17; Jn 2:13-25) “Rumble in the Temple” PDF Version
Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B (2018): Ex 20: 1-3, 7-8, 12-17; Jn 2:13-25
A man once told Jesus Christ that to love the Lord your God your God with all your mind, and all your heart, and all your soul, and your neighbour as yourself, was much greater than any sacrifice offered in the Jerusalem Temple. To this Jesus said that this man was correct and not far off from the Kingdom of Heaven!
In his reply, this pious Jew had come to understand that to abide by the Law of God, most notably the 10 Commandments, was not to merely observe 10 important rules to live a good life and avoid being punished for failing to do so. To observe the 10 commandments is to manifest one’s love for God and for one’s neighbour.
To adhere to the first three commandments of worshiping One God and one God only, of always having reverence and respect for the Holy Name of God, and to observe the Sabbath rest, allowing no other activity, as enjoyable or preferable to the Sabbath that it may be, was to love God with all your being. In those three commandments, The People of Israel and later the Church of God were given the path to love God, by making Him the priority of their lives, of always speaking of Him with respect and reverence and allowing the Sabbath to be the pinnacle of our life of prayer and spiritual sacrifice.
The remaining 7 commandments are the ways that God ask us to love our neighbour. To honour our parents, to never kill in thought, word and deed, to live a holy sexuality void of sin with oneself or others, to never steal, to never abide in the false truth that comes from lies, and to never covet the goods or beloved of another, this is to show the love that we have for one another, and that we are striving for their ultimate good and not seeking to use and manipulate other people or their possessions for our own selfish gain.
These 7 commandments touch every facet of human existence and present us with the opportunity to treat one another with genuine love and concern for their well being or to succumb to prideful and selfish desires to put my own distorted self love and use of others as the priority of my life.
When Our Lord cleansed the Temple of the moneychangers and animal dealers, in one dramatic gesture, He was showing how what was taking place in the Temple that day was a violation of the 10 Commandments He gave His people.
Externally, it seemed like another normal day in the Jerusalem Temple. The moneychangers were present to help people change their foreign currencies into the appropriate coins that were used to pay the Temple Tax and were seen as the only one worthy of being put in the Temple Treasury. In addition, industrious men aided pilgrims in buying the necessary animals that were required for sacrificial worship, providing an easy and efficient way for people to procure animals that they might otherwise be unable to bring to the Temple. It was not for these practices that Our Lord sought to cleanse the House of His Heavenly Father.
Being the Son of God, Jesus know the depth of the human heart and He looked pass the external practices taking place before Him to see the hearts of men who were more concerned with making personal profit from money changing and selling animal victims than the worship of God in the Temple. He witnessed as they would extort the people, charging them too much for their services and how this tainted the people’s experience of worship, at times denying Gentiles the opportunity to worship in the Temple and enabling fellows Jews to make their sacrifices as mere observance of liturgical rituals, and not a sacrifice of praise where one offered their entire being to God in prayer.
It was to cleanse the Temple of this false spirit of worship, which violated the first three commandments of God, and to put an end to the unjust treatment of pilgrims, which violated in part the remaining commandments of God, that compelled Christ to overthrow tables and cause an uproar in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.
But not only did our Lord seek to revere the holiness of His Father’s house and cleanse the hearts of those who came to the Temple for motives that lacked love of God and Neighbour. He was also preparing His Church to abide in His Commandments and realize that to Love God and Neighbour, most notably in the worship of the Holy Mass, is to recognize that to pray together as a community of faith is to pray within the confines of the New Temple of God, the Mystical Body of Christ.
Jesus revealed on this day that He was the New Temple and that when Christians comes together to pray and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, they do so as the Body of Christ, knowing that He is present in the Holy Scripture that we hear, in the hearts of those who pray with piety and devotion and most especially in the Eucharist, the Holy Bread of Eternal Life and the Chalice of Everlasting Salvation.
This Third Sunday of Lent presents each of us with the opportunity to ponder two very important questions. The first is do I abide in the 10 Commandments of God, not merely observing them to avoid punishment, both temporal and eternal, but as a sublime way to love God with all that I am and my neighbour as myself?
The second is to ponder how well do I worship God in my own personal prayer and most especially during the Holy Mass? Do I seek to love Him in prayer, being confident to tell Him the deepest longings of my heart and how well do I worship God in his Holy Temple, with my heart ablaze for Him or merely going through liturgical motions that are void of love and piety?
Let us ask the Most Holy Spirit, who will always teach us to love God and Neighbour well, and the Holy Mother of God, the first and greatest of all disciples, to be with us in this Lent Fast and show us how to continually refine our own life of prayer and observance of God’s eternal commands.