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Third Sunday – Year B – Lent
Readings: Exo 20:1-17; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25.
Reading 1 (Exo 20:1-17):
In those days, God delivered all these commandments:
“I, the LORD, am your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves
in the shape of anything in the sky above
or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,
inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness
on the children of those who hate me,
down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation
on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
For the LORD will not leave unpunished
the one who takes his name in vain.
“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.
No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter,
or your male or female slave, or your beast,
or by the alien who lives with you.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
but on the seventh day he rested.
That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother,
that you may have a long life in the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,
nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass,
nor anything else that belongs to him.”
Reading 2 (1 Cor 1:22-25):
Brothers and sisters:
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Gospel (Jn 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.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: How to purify and to adorn our temple?
There aren’t many of us who want to live in dirty places. We feel annoying when we must live with filthy people because we are afraid of sickness and diseases. To avoid dirty, we must spend time to bathe, to clean up and to put things in order. Similarly with our spiritual life, we can’t store up sins in our soul because they shall cause heavy damages and lead us to spiritual death. We know that God can’t live in a filthy soul because He is the most Holy One. In order to receive and to keep God in us, we must frequently examine our conscience to recognize our sins and to confess them so that we can receive God’s forgiveness. Lent is the opportunity for us to expel bad habits and to purify our mind; many called Lent is the spring of our soul. How can we recognize our sins to expel them?
Today readings provide us ways to recognize our sins. In the first reading, the Book of Exodus shows us the way to examine our conscience by referring to the Ten Commandments in which the first three of them pay attention to our relationship with God, and the next seven to our relationship with people. In the second reading, St. Paul chose the crucified Christ above the two gods, the wisdom of the Greeks and the power of the Jews. In the Gospel, when Christ saw that people made his Father’s house a filthy place, he was angry and chased all merchants out of the temple, saying: “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
1/ Reading I: The Ten Commandments help people to have good relationships with God and others.
1.1/ Three commandments which help people to have a good relationship with God.
(1) Must love God with our whole heart and above all things: To the faithful, there is only one God; all other gods were created by human beings, such as: the Lucky, the Sun, the Venus, the Mammon, etc. In today passage, the Lord God gives serious warnings to those who want to worship both God and the other: “You shall not have other gods besides me.You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation;but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
(2) Don’t call God’s name in vain: “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain; for the Lord will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain.” God’s name is the most holy name; we must avoid to unworthy call out His name.
(3) Must keep holy the Sabbath: The Israelites keep holy all Saturdays and call them the Sabbaths. They completely avoid working on the Sabbath because God rests on that day. The Catholics keep holy all the Sundays because it is Jesus’ resurrected day. The Church dispensates for those who are poor and aren’t possible to take that day off; but this doesn’t mean all can work on that day. People need to be rested and to use time for their relationship with God. When people are financially stable, they need to invest time for their intellectual, psychological and spiritual dimensions; and let others to have opportunity for their living. The god of Mammon easily takes advantage of this day.
1.2/ Seven commandments which help people to have a good relationship with others: These commandments are also necessary; however, when there are conflicts, people must first keep the above three commandments.
(4) Honor one’s parents;
(5) You must not murder;
(6) You must not commit adultery;
(7) You must not steal;
(8) You must not bear false witness;
(9) You must not desire others’ spouse;
(10) You must not covet anything which belongs to others.
2/ Reading II: The crucified Christ is God’s power and wisdom.
2.1/ The worldly wisdom: Every nation has a strong character that makes them proud of; for example, the Chinese is proud of their skill of imitation; there is no product that they can counterfeit. St. Paul also highlighted two nations, Greek and Hebrew, who are proud of their tradition.
(1) The Jews demand wondrous signs: They challenged Jesus to let them see his power by working miracles so they could believe in him. In today Gospel, they also challenged Jesus: “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
(2) The Greeks search for wisdom: They have a well-known tradition of “philosophers” which means “those who love wisdom.” Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes are some famous names of their tradition. They desire to know the truth and the origin of all things; they also have the skill to persuade people to believe in them.
(3) St. Paul proudly declared: “but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” The cross is a stumbling block for the Jews because only robbers or murders are crucified; their powerful Messiah can’t have such a shameful death. The cross is absurd for the Greeks because they think a powerful God can’t be suffered. If God must suffer, He is no longer powerful.
2.2/ God’s wisdom and power: St. Paul continued: “but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
(1) God’s wisdom: Wisdom is not only about learning deep knowledge or hidden things which have no profit for human beings; but the true wisdom is to learn about God’s will for human beings and how to achieve the ultimate goal of human life. Through Christ, people know what is God’s will for them and the way to reach their ultimate goal. St. Thomas Aquinas, a famous theologian of the Dominican Order declared: “I have learned from the foot of the cross more than anywhere else.”
(2) God’s power: Power can’t only be measured by force or strength, but how to move a human will. For example, many heroes must yield before the power of women’s tears. Christ’s cross has power to soften many stony hearts and to bring them back to God. Through the cross, Christ has conquered the devil’s power and the death, and brings salvation to all people.
3/ Gospel: “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
3.1/ Christ’s eagerness for his Father’s house: There were two main reasons why Jesus chased all merchants out of the temple:
(1) The temple is the house of prayer: People come to the temple in order to pray and to have an intimate relationship with God; it isn’t a place to sell merchandises or to exchange currencies. Jesus said to them: “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
(2) People misused the law to earn financial gains: This was a system for people to make money which was based on the law of offerings. In the Old Testament, people must offer sacrifices through the blood of animals so that their sins might be forgiven. When people came to the temple to offer their sacrifices, they must offer clean and unblemish animals. To guarantee this, animals must be inspected by the temple’s inspectors. If a person secured an animal from his town and must travel several days to the temple. When his animal was inspected, it didn’t meet the standard, he couldn’t walked back to his home to find another. He must buy one from the inspectors or their relatives with an expensive price. Moreover, to set up a boost inside the temple area, people must pay a high rent or know the high priest, scribes or priests.
3.2/ How to purify and to adorn our individual temple? In Jesus’ dialogue with the Israelites’ leaders, he emphasized that the temple was his body. If Jerusalem temple couldn’t be both the house of prayer and the marketplace, neither our individual temple is the place for both God and the devil. St. Paul emphasized this point: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19); and “so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Rom 12:5).
To purify our mind, the first thing we must do is to worship only the one God. We can’t worship two gods or be a servant of two masters. The first reading clearly declared, “For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God.” He shall not live together with any other god.
St. Theresa de Infant Jesus said: “God accepts all that we offered to Him; but He shall not give all what He has to us, until He sees that we are offering to Him all what we have.” St. John of the Cross said: “Don’t pay attention to any creature if you want to keep a clear and simple image of God in your soul; but if you discard all that related to them and run far away from them, you shall walk in God’s light.” There are so many creatures which we are slaving for them; we need to courageously expel them so that we have time for God and pay back to Him the highest place in our mind.
If we decide to purify our mind, we know that the more we purify our mind, the easy is the progress of purification. In our spiritual life, there is a chain connection: the more we enter into the relationship with God, the more we desire to become purer so that we can live an intimate relationship with Him.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must love and worship God above all things.
– We should learn from the Crucified Christ more than any place in this world because he is God’s power and wisdom.
– We should frequently purify our soul so that we can sweep away all impurity and become the holy temple for God to dwell. The sixth Beatitude clearly declares: “Blessed are the pure because they shall see God.” St. Thomas Aquinas confirmed the pure mind can contemplate God even in this life.
– We must determine that we shall never serve two masters, but only the one God.