Third Sunday of Lent March 15, 2009

Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25
When we live with a person we develop a certain amount of familiarity and we are very much certain as to how the person would behave in given circumstances. Suddenly we are confronted with a different type of behaviour of the person and we are left to wonder whether it is the same person and what has brought the change in him. In fact today’s Gospel makes us feel that way, whether we really know a Jesus who is angry and who chases the people out of the Temple and even shouts at them. We are happy with a Jesus who is kind, blessed the children, brings the dead back to life, consoles the sinner refuses to condemn any one. We want to have close friendship with this loving gentle Jesus. To discover a Jesus who is angry and one who knocks down the tables is something different. Besides we are uneasy with an angry Jesus because his act in the temple challenges us even today and makes us move beyond our comfort Zone.
It makes us ask the question what is there in us that Jesus wants to overturn and knock down. It is a call to cleanse the temple of our heart, our lives only if we let him in. during these forty days of lent we are challenged by Jesus to cleanse ourselves of jealousy, apathy, hatred, despair and whatever takes us away from a good relationship with God. Lent is the time for a devotional journey and we look for the support from the Lord. The readings provide us with a message as to how we should prepare ourselves during the Lenten Season. When we reflect on them we remember their purpose during the season. It was in the early church a time for the catechumens to prepare themselves for the Baptism and secondly for the public sinners a call to reunite themselves with the church on Easter Sunday. The readings depict these two themes throughout. It is a call for us to renew ourselves.
The First Reading of today gives the list of Ten Commandments and their practical usage. During the Lenten Season, this is the proper time to review them. The First Commandment reminds us that there is only One God who brought us out of slavery. It is by the grace of God that we have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism. There is one living God. And our living faith demands of us that we respect Our Lord by remaining loyal to Him in all our thoughts, our words and our actions. God forbids us to make idols. The Second Commandment reminds us not to use the Most Holy Name of the Lord in vain. The third tells us to keep the Sabbath holy and so on. Each command reminds us of the particular aspect of our life and how we have to be obedient to God and do his will. The catechumens are given the idea of the Christian virtues through which they can approach God as their own Father and they become his children. No one has ever gone to Heaven with personal belongings or lots of cash in their pockets. Worldly things are useless in Heaven. If we want Heavenly treasures, we must seek spiritual growth in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
In the Second Reading we have the message of the cross that it is foolishness to those who are perishing. But for those who are saved, it is the power of God. The message of the cross is the message of love of Jesus that was summarized in two Commandments. First, love God and the love of ones neighbours accepting them as one would expect them to reciprocate. If we say about the Ten Commandments that they are foolish to us, then we are perishing. Either we live by the teachings of God or we do not! We are called upon to choose one or the other and there is no way in between. We proclaim Christ crucified. To the unbelievers, this is a stumbling block and foolishness. They claim that if Jesus was God, why did the angels not rescue Him from being crucified? They fail to perceive that in Divine love, Jesus took our place on the cross. He died for our sins so we, as children of God, may inherit the Heavenly Kingdom. Hence Paul says God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. For us who are faithful children of God, Christ is our power. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, in our hearts, we perceive the wisdom of God.
The Gospel gives us a dramatic scene where Jesus is seen as Lord of the Temple. It does not seem to be the usual calm behaviour of Jesus. He makes a small whip of cords and physically drives out the traders in cattle, sheep and pigeons – animals to be used in sacrifices. He overturns the coins of the money changers. In reality their services were actually needed because only Jewish money could be offered in the Temple. Roman coins had the image of the ‘divine Augustus’ and so were regarded as idolatrous; they had to be exchanged for Jewish coinage. Jesus objected not to the trade as such which was quite legitimate but to its being done in the temple precincts. He calls this temple his own, “my Father’s house”. “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.” Such business should have been carried on just outside the temple precincts but we know that in our own time hawkers try to get as close to the action as possible, especially if they have competition. The temple authorities in fact permitted the trade since it earned them very good income during the festival time.
The people demanded an explanation from Jesus, under what authority was He acting to do such a thing. Jesus told them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Being blind to the spiritual meaning of the words of Jesus, the people asked how He could do it in three days when the Temple was still under construction after forty-six years. They did not realize that Jesus was talking about His Body, the glorious Resurrection. He is the temple where God is present and God will raise it up for the sake of humanity. The original temple possessed the grandeur but the new temple will be more precious than the previous one. Through this event we are reminded during Lent of what we are preparing to remember and celebrate – the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the very heart of our faith. But to those who have been called and who answer the call – be they Jews or Gentiles, men or women, slave or free – it is the power and wisdom of God. As we continue on our journey towards Easter, let us reflect on the cleanliness of our Temples. Let us now make a firm commitment on cleaning our Temples for the glory of God.


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