First Reading: Exodus 20: 1 – 17
Resposnorial Psalm: 19
Second Reading 1 Corinthians: 1:18, 22 – 25
Gospel : John 2:13 – 25
This Lent the First Readings from the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures present various covenants between God and his people. We reflect on them during Lent to help us have a greater understanding of the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus which we celebrate at Easter. Two weeks ago we had the covenant of the rainbow that God made with his people when he promised he would never give up on his people. Last Sunday we had the covenant with Abraham when he trusted that God would provide after being told to sacrifice his son. The message was that God knows the inner turmoil we may have in our faith lives and gives us the strength to grow in faith even in the most difficult times of our lives.
This Sunday we are presented with the covenant made through Moses, the Ten Commandments. This covenant was so solemn that the Israelites kept the tablets of the covenant in a specially made beautiful platform and tent which they called the Ark of the Covenant. Eventually, under King Solomon, they would build a Temple to house the Ark and the precious commandments. What was so important to the Israelites was that these commandments told them what God wanted them to do for them to continue receiving his special care. They practiced the Ten Commandments so they could remain the Chosen People. We also are called to practice the Ten Commandments as our response to God’s presence, his choice of us. I would like to take a deeper look at a few of the commandments today.
It is rather natural, certainly human, for us to want to do everything as easily as possible. This includes the very actions we were created for: to know, love and serve the Lord. We tend to cheapen our following of God. We tend to cheapen the foundation law of God’s covenant with us, the Ten Commandments. Just look at the first two commandments. We cheapen the First Commandment into, simply, don’t practice idolatry, as though we are inclined to offer incense to a statue in our homes. But the commandment is much more than this. It is a commandment not to put anything before God. The materialist is an idol worshiper. His God is his money, his stuff. A person caught up in promiscuity is an idol worshiper, his God is his body. The selfish narcissistic individual is an idol worshiper; his God is himself. The Jewish Temple priests of today’s Gospel were more concerned with the money they were making in the Temple than worshiping God in the Temple. Jesus accused them of making money their god, violating the first commandment. He threw them out of the Temple.
We talk about keeping holy the Sabbath Day and note the obligation we have to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Sundays. I am sure that before the pandemic there were people who attended Mass only because they were obliged to attend. One man told me that he goes to Church to keep God happy, as though Divine Eternal Bliss depended on his presence in Church. As you know, due to the pandemic the Sunday obligation has been lifted. Still, it is wonderful to see so many people attending Mass simply because they want to be there and need to be there. The obligation to attend Church and receive the sacraments is secondary to our deep need to experience the real presence of the Lord at the Last Supper, on the Cross and in the Eucharist. Many of those who are not able to go to Mass watch it on our YouTube stations and are not concerned with fulfilling an obligation as they are with praying on Sunday.
Consider the Sixth Commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery. A number of years ago a seven-year-old in this parish told me he committed adultery. I told him that he didn’t, only adults do that, that’s why it’s called adultery. If he wanted to know anything more, he should talk to his mother. OK, so I cheated, but I had a hard time to keep from cracking up. Anyway, people only consider the sexual dimension of the Sixth Commandment. It is a lot deeper than that. Adultery is not just about sex. It is about putting others and things before the one we are committed to in life. Essentially it is a violation of a vow made to another to find God by giving his or her all to that person, or in the case of a priest or religious, those people, who are their way to God.
Everybody wants religion to be easy. The Jews wanted signs so they would not have to take steps of faith. Many people today travel throughout the world looking for miracles to be the basis of their faith. The gentiles, the Greek philosophers, wanted neat theories on who God is and who Jesus is. Many people today get caught up in rationalizing their way out of faith and morality. “We,” St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “offer something that is not based on rationalization nor on wonders. We preach Christ crucified.” The crucifix both reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice and calls us to join him in sacrificing ourselves for him and for his father’s kingdom. This is not easy. This is, though, the way of the Lord.
The Ten Commandments call us to a way of life that is out of tune with the society the media presents, and, to some degree, out of tune with our own society. Honesty, respect for parents, fidelity, respect for property, putting God before all else, giving him a day a week, are all ways that we are distinct from others. To be distinct, to be separate for the Lord, is what we mean when we say, “We are called to be holy.” We live these commandments so that ultimately we might not be wrapped up in ourselves. We live these commandments in response to God’s preference of us as his chosen people.
The Ten Commandments are not outdated. Nor are they easy. But they are effective. By fulfilling this covenant we are responding to God’s call to be his people.
Christ arrives at the Jerusalem temple for the Passover. The temple was under construction for almost half a century. To gain admission into the temple one had to pay half a shekel. That was a big sum amounting to two day’s wages. That amount did not bother Jesus. What did disturb Jesus that day was this: if you were a Jew coming for the Passover from Rome, your money would be in Iiras They were unacceptable at the temple. So, you had to convert them into shekels with the temple money changers. The bankers in this context were bandits. This was theft in the name of the religion. John tells us today in graphic language what happened. So Jesus did not hesitate to resort to physical violence at the sight of people being abused. This house-cleaning Jesus’ image is far different from the gentle and compassionate Jesus we know.
Does your heart need a cleanup? Does your heart need the attention of the Master Cleaner?
If the Lord came to do an inspection of your heart what is He going to find? Is he going to find anger, bitterness, hatred, lust, immortality, un-forgiveness, indulgence, or compromise? You may think it is hidden, but your heart is not hidden from God?
We might certainly need a clean-up. Perhaps you have had a spiritual experience, but since then, it has been back to mess again. In many ways we probably are polluted again and it is time for a cleaning.
Jesus needs to purify you and cleanse you. He has no desire to leave you the way you are. Just like he changed water into wine, he wants to clean the clutter of your life into a proper temple for him.
Jesus didn’t condemn the merchants, only their business practice. Jesus attacks the behavior not the person.
This is a lesson for us. The size of a man may be measured by the size of the things that make him angry. How true that is! To become upset an infuriated over trivial matters gives evidence of childishness and immaturity in a person.
Solomon declared: “It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to win control over yourself than over whole cities” (Prov 16:32). We are constantly exposed to irritations as we mingle with others, an even when we are alone. How we react to these irritations is a reflection of our personalities and temperaments. Anger does not contribute to good. It is a destroyer, not a builder.
In our families, situations may arise that could cause irritations. It is then that parents must be calm and exemplary. The man with an uncontrolled temper is like an undisciplined child he expresses his emotions explosively, and disregards the feelings of those about him.
In the home, anger should be controlled an love should abound. When, in his most impressionable years a child experiences ugly situations that result from uncontrolled tempers, when he hears unkind words exchanged between his father and mother, and when he sees contention crowd out an atmosphere of kindness and mutual respect – when these conditions make a child’s environment, what chance has be to become refined an noble?
The minds of children are like a recorder; they record every incident, good and bad. Our children may forget what is said, but they never forget what they are made to feel.
Someone has said: “Parents may tell but never teach; unless they practice what they preach.” Never set an improper example before the children. Never let them hear a cross word. Try this. A little explained, a little endured, a little passed over, and the quarrel is cured.
Anger is manifest both in righteousness and in unrighteousness. The cleansing of the temple is an example of righteous anger. It is anger kindled against wickedness. Likewise, an inspired man might be led to speak or act in righteous anger, as did Moses when he broke the tablets upon which the ten Commandments were written by the Lord.
But to lose our temper, to explode, to become ugly, punitive, and hateful when faced with frustrations is inexcusable!
Jesus set the example in personal conduct regarding anger when, although he had been falsely accused and made the subject of railings and mockery he stood majestically and completely composed before the perplexed Ponitus Pilate. He did not retaliate in anger. Rather, he stood erect, poised, unmoved. His conduct was divine. What an example for all of us!
Your life is to walk with him and talk with him and let him influence you, so that you too can walk through life with joy, with peace, and, most of all, with a new love, not for God, not for Jesus, but for each other.
God Bless. Have a blessed Sunday.