Third Sunday of Lent
1) Ex 20:1-17
2) 1 Cor 1:22-25
Gospel: Jn 2:13-25
Over the course of this pandemic year, a local parish community has seen a dramatic increase in the number of families who come in search of basic necessities from the parish food pantry.
Like many faith communities across the country, this parish went from serving about 200 families before the pandemic to a weekly line of over 500 families who need basic food items to feed the adults, children and infants in their struggling homes.
The pastor reminds the parish community often that their outreach to those in need is one way to live the commandments of God. By caring for the needs of struggling families, this faith community extends the sacred space of the church building into the lives and homes of those who must struggle with the social and economic consequences of a pandemic.
In the first reading from the Book of Exodus, the people of Israel are given the commandments as a sign of their covenant relationship with God. In response, the Israelites accepted God’s commands as a guide to their daily way of life.
But as the history of salvation shows, the people of Israel had to work against the temptation to reduce the commandments to a laundry list of rules to be observed out of fear of God or a sense of obligation. The heart of the commandments was love of God and love of neighbor, as Jesus would teach his disciples, and us, when he spoke of discipleship.
Perhaps this is why Jesus is angry when he sees the Temple, the holiest place of worship, reduced to a marketplace of idolatry and economic exchange.
It’s not often in the Gospels that Jesus expresses anger to the point of rage. It’s a wake-up call to see Jesus angered to point of making a whip out of cords to drive out those in the Temple area and overturning the tables of the money changers so their coins are spilled over. “Take these out of here,” Jesus said, “and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
God continues to be present in the commandments of the law and in those sacred places set apart for the praise and worship. At the center of every Christian house of prayer is the central symbol of Christianity, the cross of Jesus Christ. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we “proclaim Christ crucified,” whose weakness on the cross is stronger than human strength.
As we continue on our Lenten journeys, God invites us to cleanse our hearts and minds of those attachments, small and great, that weaken our living out of the commandments of love.
Again and again, God calls us to recognize those ways in which we can manifest the love of God in our families, communities and particularly to those struggling through the consequences of a pandemic. As we join the psalmist in gratitude for the love of God at the heart of the law of God we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How is your living out of the commandments strengthened this Lent?
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Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.