3rd Sunday of Lent – 2018

3LB18.   Exodus 20:1-17.   Of course, these are what we have always called the Ten Commandments.  There is a somewhat similar version at Deuteronomy 5:6-21.  These were given by God to his Chosen People with Moses as the intermediary.  The first three deal with their relationship to God; the second seven, with their relationship with other persons.  Only two are stated in positive terms, whereas the other eight in negative terms, using the initial words “You shall not.”  They all deal with specifics.  My own sense of this approach is the way  parents deal with their children who do not yet have the maturity to manage their life out of a directive that is general as opposed to being a long list of specific ‘do’s and do not’s, such as Jesus gave to his disciples when he said to them in Matthew 5:48, “So be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

John 2:13-25.   Jesus found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area.”  “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  As I understand this to mean that Jesus is now overturning the old covenant to be replaced by the new; the endless sacrifices of animals now replaced by the one and unique sacrifice of Jesus himself.  As an explanation for what he was doing, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” “He was speaking about the temple of his body,” and not the Jerusalem temple.  Only later did the disciples know how to interpret what Jesus had said in the light of the resurrection.

Reading that Jesus lashed out with whips may seem to be offensive to us.  Because the loss of heaven and the eternal fires of hell were the consequences of a rejection of Jesus, he spoke and acted in the strongest ways.  When those invited to become subjects of the kingdom of God rejected that invitation and even killed the prophets that were sent to invite them, Jesus says in Matthew 22:7, “The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.”  Looking forward to the persecution that was to come against himself and those who followed him, Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.  I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” The devil and the ways of the world are at war with God. Jesus came into this world to offer himself up as sacrifice on the cross, I. e. to suffer violence.  The violence of hell in turn would be the consequence for those who reject his mercy and love.  Life is a serious challenge for us in this world.   Choose life by living out each day the choice to follow Jesus and his will for us or choose the death that is an eternity in hell.

“But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.  He himself knew it well.”  Our humanness joins us to the dirt of the earth.  We can live in this world as just another animal creature or choose to let God pull us up daily to a spiritual level above the world around us.  Jesus himself in his humanness went up the mountain to pray and to appeal to his Father to keep him above what was just natural and earthy.  Should not we all be doing the same?

1 Corinthians 1:22-25.  In some places where Paul preached, the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  In the Acts of Apostles 17:15-34, Paul had tried to convert the Greek Athenians who were steeped in the wisdom of the great Greek philosophers of the past but he failed.  He went instead to the working class people of the port city of Corinth and received a much better reception.  Paul writes in this Sunday’s second reading: “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  God’s infinite love for us led him to offer up his only Son to suffer and die for us on the cross to enable us to come home to our Father in heaven.  To believe in God’s infinite love for us requires that we reject all sorts of thinking that this world imbues us with.  We can only do this by humbly submitting to the work of the Spirit within us.  The road to heaven is a narrow road that has many appealing temptations along the way that divert us from the only genuine truth that is God himself.  Everything else is an alluring invitation to believe in a lie.