11 March. 3rd Sunday of Lent
Exod 20:1-17. The ten commandments are a map of life for a people devoted to God.
1 Cor 1:22-25. To some the idea of a crucified Saviour makes no sense. But to those who believe, it is a sign of the wisdom of God
Jn 2:13-25. Christ clears the merchants out of the Temple.
Inner Cleanliness (Jack McArdle)
Today’s gospel can be taken as a powerfully significant and symbolic gospel, where Jesus clears the Temple of our hearts, which is intended to be a place of prayer, and a place where all kinds of evil and destructive thoughts can evolve into plans and into actions.
There used be an advert for Andrews liver salts some years ago, which told us that “Inner cleanliness comes first.” We are all familiar, in the area of health, with the situation where the insides have to be totally cleared of all infections, biles, food poisoning, and anything else whose presence in the system is a health hazard. Sometimes all the blood in the body has to be replaced. At other times it is necessary to use a physic to induce vomiting, to clear the stomach or the intestines of unhealthy substances. We are also familiar with the external sores, skin disorders, etc., that result from something being wrong in the blood or in the digestive system. That is how today’s gospel can help us understand what Jesus wishes to effect in all of us.
Today’s gospel is presented to us in the context of Lent. Lent is a time for spring-cleaning, a time to hire the skip. Because of our human limitations, our ability to see reality is limited. In other words, I cannot trust myself to clear my own heart, because, with the best intentions in the world, I will run the risk of being selective, and of having blind spots. It is so much easier for me to see the clear out that someone else should do. That is why I must turn to the Holy Spirit and declare my openness and willingness to hand over the task to him.
By What Right? (Andrew Greeley)
Many Jewish scholars are offended by this passage from the Gospel. By what right did Jesus attack those who were merely providing the logistics for the temple sacrifices? He appears to be questioning the sacrificial rites themselves, though they were established by the Mosaic law. By what right did he do such things. Contemporary Judaism of course does not do animal sacrifices any longer, and perhaps would not do so even if the Jerusalem temple were rebuilt. It is somewhat difficult to fathom the meaning of this text, save perhaps it intends to show that for all his gentleness and kindness Jesus had a passionate and even on occasion, a furious side.
Story: Once upon a time a high school principal discovered that someone had stolen the exam questions from her office. It had to have been the sophomores because they were the ones whose grades suddenly shot up. She assembled them all in the gym and tore into them. “I don’t know who are more stupid she said, the ones who stole the tests and then gave them out, or the ones who use the stolen tests to improve their grades. Either way we were bound to catch you. So you’re not only sneaky and dishonest and corrupt. You’re also dumb. We’re suspending the lot of you indefinitely until we find out who stole the tests. Tell your parents not to bother to come over here and try to change my mind. I won’t talk to them. I won’t even waste my time telling them that their children are crooked and dumb. If the people who did it confess, we might not expel them, but they don’t have much time to fess up.” Then she stormed out of the gym. The sophomores slipped out in twos and threes. “We might agree with what she said,” they admitted, “but we didn’t like the way she said it.”
Commandments (John Walsh)
In biblical times most people were unable to read or write, but they possessed powers of memory to a far greater degree than is common nowadays. The events and traditions of the past were firmly stamped on their minds, even if hundreds of years elapsed before these were written down in the form that we know them. As we read of the Exodus from Egypt, we are bound to wonder, How could it possibly happen that a band of ex-slaves, fleeing from slavery, with no organisation, no education, and no training for survival in the desert of Sinai, were responsible for changing the tide of history, and influencing the future of the world?
This is precisely what Moses and his refugees brought about in the middle of the 13th century B.C., and the explanation offered by the Bible is direct and to the point. It says that this group encountered God at the foot of a mountain in the Sinai desert. They formed a covenant, or pact, with God, whereby God promised to watch over them, and they promised total allegiance to him, especially by observing the commandments God gave them through Moses. This rather rag-tag group became a nation quite unlike the nations all around, as a divinely-led community formed by God himself. In ancient times other religions evolved from worshipping the forces of nature, but that of Israel sprang from the historical events leading up to and then their meeting with God at Mount Sinai. With the exception of Christianity and Islam which derive from Israel, no other religion began quite like that. The Law given by God was at its heart.
According to Jesus, the essence of religious law is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart… and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Indeed from the fourth onwards, the ten commandments can be summed up in a single command, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” To love truly is to keep the Law in all its perfection. It is this perfected Law that endures, not the Law of Moses with its numerous oral additions from a later period, expanding the Law to touch every detail of daily life. In Transfiguration of Christ, as read last Sunday we had Jesus in discussion with Moses representing the Law, and Elijah representing the prophets. Luke notes (9:31) that they were speaking about his passing which he would accomplish in Jerusalem. And ultimately it is only by the grace that comes to us from his death and resurrection that we can practice perfect love, and be pleasing to God in all that we do.
New Ways to Worship (Kathryn Williams)
There are many expressions for getting angry – blood boiling, seeing red, losing it, hitting the roof or blowing our tops. No matter what turn of phrase we use, when thinking about our own anger or that of others, there is a sense that we are not quite in control of things. It can be an uncomfortable experience!
Right from our early years we knew that Jesus is ‘like us in all things but sin.’ Therefore that means he knows what it’s like to be at the mercy of the boiling blood and the seeing of red. The more a person is refined and sensitive, the deeper is his or her experience of the emotion – so we can guess how powerful the movement of anger must have been for Jesus.
On that particular day in the temple when Jesus dramatically whipped up and swept away the flawed rites of worship, the finer detail about the pigeon-sellers receiving a gentler treatment remind us that there’s also a new way to be angry. Jesus didn’t ‘lose it’ altogether.
As Christians, we want our lives to be a continuous act of worship, one that spills over into all we do. Today I pray for the grace to worship God in such a way that it mirrors the newness taught by Jesus.
First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work-you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Second Reading: First Corinthians 1:22-25
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Gospel: John 2:13-25
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.