3rd Sunday on Lent Year B

Ex 20: 1-17 / Ps 19: 8, 9, 10, 11 / 1 Cor 1:22-25 / Jn 2:13 – 25

     When I was younger, Church people used to always ask, WWJD, what would Jesus do. To be honest with you, I hate that question; it’s pointless. Why not ask, WDJD, what did Jesus do? But even that question is not complete because we also need to ask why did He do it. In today’s Gospel I think it is easy to see that Jesus’ fundamental concern in over turning the money tables, was to show that the temple is to be used for its intended purpose, as a house of prayer, but St. John’s account of the cleansing of the temple speaks about much more than just the ancient temple in Jerusalem, which has been destroyed since 70 AD. Each of us who is baptized has the divine life of God dwelling within us: we are temples of the Holy Spirit[1] so this Lent were are invited to take time for daily examination and penance, to ensure our own temple is in proper order.

     Notice how Jesus cleansed the temples. He did not simply ask the vendors and moneychangers to leave; no he caused a huge kerfuffle. The practices of the vendors and moneychangers had become so commonplace, as sin often does in our lives, I doubt they would have given Jesus the time of day if He simply asked them to leave. Likewise it is not enough for us to ask those habits of sin to simply leave our temple. If we want to root sin from our lives we must, with zeal for our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, take account of what is making us a marketplace and then through the sacrament of confession, and our lenten practices drive them from our temple.

     Today’s first reading gives us the guideposts for keeping the temple of our bodies pure. While the 10 commandments can been seen as harsh negative statements from a tyrannical God, if we read them in the light of today’s 2nd reading, we come to see that they are the guide to eternal life. If we pause to look at the crucifix we are reminded that the same God came into this world to suffer and die so that we might have eternal life. The crucifix clearly shows us that God only wills our good, our happiness and so we know that the commandments are not simply arbitrary rules imposed on us by God, but rather God’s plan to lead us to true freedom and happiness. The first three commandments teach us the obligation we have to God’s person, His name and His day. At their core these three commandments ask us the question “who is the Lord of our Life.”

     If Jesus is the Lord of our life, He must also be the Lord of our temple and these 3 simple commandments help us to order our temple around Him. The 1st commandment asks us what we hold as most valuable in our lives. If God is truly primary in our lives, our entire lives will be centered on Him. If we find ourselves missing Mass on Sunday for a soccer game then it is obvious that the soccer game has become primary in our lives and we have regulated God, at best, to second place: soccer becomes a foreign god in our lives. The 2nd commandment asks us to consider how we respect God, for because respect for His name is respect for His person. If we take God’s name in vein, we show disrespect to God because we use God’s name either as an insult or with no meaning. God who is the supreme good should only be spoken of for who He is, Goodness Himself. It is good to speak to Him in prayer or about him to others, but to speak about Him in any other way shows a lack of respect and reverence for our creator and redeemer. The 3rd commandment shows us that our faith cannot only be a matter of words or belief, but must be embodied. We owe God, who created us and sent His only into the world to suffer die and rise for us, an infinite debt that cannot be repaid. God gives us 168 hours in a week and asks for 1 back because it is good for us. Is it really that much? I bet if I gave you $168 dollars and then asked for 1 dollar back you would give it to me in a heart beat. Friends, intentionally missing Mass on Sunday is a sign that something is seriously out of place in our lives.

     If something is out of place in our relationship with God, we cannot have proper relationships others. The last 7 commandments rest on the first 3 because everything in life rises or falls based on our love of God. These commandments express the obligation we have towards others; the respect for proper authority, human life, the acts which transmits life, proper respect for property, and for the truth. The 9th commandment reinforces the 6th by reminding us not to even think about committing adultery while the 10th commandment reinforces the 7th, reminding us that we should be satisfied with having our needs met and not be envious of what others have.

     Jesus calls each one of us to cleanse the temple of our hearts. Do not be afraid to examine your conscience daily. God desires to heal us, not punish us. His anger is for the indifferent and the prideful who have no intention of changing, not for those who are striving to do better. This season of lent is the time for us to cast out false idols from our lives through prayer, fasting, penance and almsgiving. We are called during lent to destroy whatever is evil in the temple of our hearts so that our temple may truly be raised up on Easter Sunday. The whole goal of lent is to make our bodies pure temples where God is worshipped. To truly cleanse our own temple we need to take a deep look at our lives and see where our priorities lie. Is Jesus truly the center of my life? Is it possible that some serious cleaning needs to be done in my life? Do I need to seek that cleaning in the sacrament of confession? As we approach this altar and prepare to receive our Lord let us ask Him to enter into our hearts and overturn those areas in our lives where we make the temple of our hearts a marketplace, rather then a proper place to worship God.

[1] 1 Cor 6:19

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