Reflection for March 3, 2024, 3rd Sunday of Lent - Catholic Courier

Reflection for March 3, 2024, 3rd Sunday of Lent

Incredibly, we’re already entering the third week of Lent. The ashes are a distant memory. We’ve gotten used to grilled cheese and Filet-o-Fish sandwiches on Fridays and we’ve mustered the self-control to resist having that candy bar at 3 pm.

Maybe we’ve settled into the rhythm of Lent and become used to it. But have we yet embraced what it’s really about?

If we needed a reminder, the reading from Exodus lands like an elbow to the ribs. The first command from God should make all of us sit up and take notice: “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.”

With that, suddenly, we are shocked back to reality. You want a summary of what Lent is all about? This is it.

It’s about remembering our priorities.

This is a time of purification and penance, of prayer and fasting, of giving alms and giving of ourselves, of doing without and turning away from the distractions of life to rediscover what it means to love God and love our neighbor — all in anticipation of the greatest feast on our calendar, Easter.

And so this week, just when a lot of us might need it, we hear once again God’s commandments — challenging us, humbling us, maybe even convicting us. The first commandment we hear should have all of us wondering: “Wait. ‘Other gods?’ I don’t have other gods in my life. Do I?”

Well, maybe. Think about it.

Maybe those other gods don’t speak from mountaintops. Maybe they’re closer than that. Maybe we’re hearing them in the next cubicle, in the elevator or in emails and texts that arrive after hours. Maybe we’re worshiping our careers, or we’re enamored with status and influence. Maybe we’ve carved mythical statues in tribute to our own success, or we worry too much about the opinions of others.

The other gods that clutter our lives can even be closer than that — in the kitchen, in the bar, in the garage. What takes up our time and attention, and pulls us away from our walk toward holiness?

Lent is a good time to ask whether we need to turn away from those empty gods and turn toward the God who loves us, comforts us, uplifts us, redeems us.

It’s fitting that this reading from Exodus is paired with the gospel account of Jesus cleansing the temple — spilling the coins of the money changers and overturning their tables. He wanted to rid his Father’s house of the mercenary distractions that cheapened that sacred space. Well, Lent is a moment for us to turn over the tables of our lives and stand before God as penitent people, seeking to be made new.

How is that going? Are we consumed with zeal for him — or are we obsessed with other things, other distractions, other gods, instead?

It can be tempting amid the busy-ness of daily life to lose sight of what really matters, and to forget The One who makes it all matter. This week, as we near the halfway point of Lent, we can take a breath and take stock.

Are we making the most of this season of opportunity and introspection, this time of self-examination and self-discovery?

It’s alright to ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to (as we heard on Ash Wednesday) “repent and return to the Gospel.”

The gospel reading is more than simply a dramatic confrontation in the temple. It’s a call to action — to drive out the things within us that might be keeping us from drawing closer to God.

Because, whether we realize it or not, every now and then we need to flip over the tables in our own lives.

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Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog, “The Deacon’s Bench.”

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