3rd Sunday of Lent | YEAR B
Gospel: John 2: 13-25
SINCE the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He 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, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. 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 understood it well.
Exodus 20:1-17 or 20: 1-3, 7-8, 12-17 | 19: 8-11 (R. John 6:68c)| 1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
REFLECTION | HOMILY
ALL people have faith. Even atheists have faith. It’s just that their faith tells them that there is no God. If atheists really have no faith, then they would not care if others believe in God. They would not get offended if other people express their faith in God like praying or having chaplains in public schools, or recite the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of parliamentary sittings. I purposely use the word “faith” and not “belief” because faith is more than just believing on something. The main difference is that one can believe and still do nothing. We can all believe that climate change is real and still choose not to act. We can believe that refusing asylum to refugees is wrong and still do nothing to change this.
But with faith, it is both believing AND doing. Faith always moves us into action. As we move closer to Holy Week and Easter, we are being invited to reflect on our faith. We are encouraged to look at ourselves; to examine our lives; to measure our faith whether we live up to our identity as Christians—as Catholics, so we can be better, grow in God more deeply both as individuals and as a community.
We heard in today’s gospel the story of what we usually refer to as the “cleansing of the temple.” With a whip out of cords, Jesus drove the merchants out of the temple ground saying “my Father’s house is a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a den for thieves.” The disciples interpreted Jesus’ action as a sign of his faith—“Zeal for your house will devour me” (Ps 69:9). Faith compelled Jesus to act in righteous indignation–in anger. The very same faith that moved him to pity and mercy for the sinners, the sick and the suffering who asked for forgiveness and healing. For us, faith moves us to the path of discipleship, which, as noted by a dominican preacher, “at times may seem daunting and obscure, even difficult.” But as we heard before, God does not leave us without any help. God always accompany us in our journey. God gave us His WORD to guide us and help us in our way—both in the form of laws and stories or examples. In other words, God gave us the means to measure our faith so that we will know where we stand.
One of these means is the Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue, that we heard from the first reading. For the ancient Jews, the Ten Commandments provide a concise introduction and a summary to the laws that accompany the covenant they entered into with God in Mt Sinai. As Christians we also accept these commandments. Within them are separate commands about one’s conduct before God and neighbor. But as one scripture scholar said, “while we have all these separate commands, all of them are designed to secure and manifest one thing—loyalty to God.” All those who truly profess loyalty to God; all those who truly worship God according to the Decalogue commands will thereby treat other people in accordance with these commands. To do otherwise is to be disloyal to God. The same is true if we run the principle in the reverse direction. Those who are treating their neighbors according to the Decalogue are undoubtedly doing so because of their loyalty to God. So loving one’s neighbor is an act of obedience—being a loyal disciple by loving as God loves.
If we accept the logic or principle behind the Ten Commandments, we can truly say that one’s life cannot really be divided into the sacred and the social or secular. Each commandment is a sign of one’s loyalty to God and of one’s status as a member of the community. Our faith—that is, our belief and actions—should express the unity of the human and the divine within us because that is our very identity: Christians, Christ-like, from Christ, the second person of the Trinity who “is inseparably true God and true man” (CCC, 469).
However, our human history tells us—and this not just limited to us Christians—that we tend to separate our worship of God from our social responsibilities. How else can we explain the gap between professing loyalty to God and still commit wicked things against our fellow human beings and the rest of the created order? And for this reason, we need to examine our own attitudes and actions, especially during this period of Lent. In fact, starting this Sunday, our Elects, our candidates for Christian Initiation begin the period of, what we call in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), Scrutinies, a period of purification and enlightenment.
All of us here are encouraged to enter into the same period of purification and enlightenment. With humility, let us take the challenge of measuring ourselves; of measuring our faith. Let us ask how do we practice our faith? How committed are we to God and to the people who make up the Church—and not merely those we find in the external building, but all those who are the people of God? Finally, let us all pray to God: LORD, GIVE US FAITH. LORD, “INCREASE OUR FAITH” (Lk 17:5).