We are in the third week of Lent. This week’s readings teach us that Lent is an ideal time for cleansing our hearts and growing closer to God by following the Ten Commandments. They also remind us that we should keep our wonderful church holy and our Divine worship vibrant by actively participating in all aspects of the liturgy.
The first reading describes the Covenant that God made with His chosen people through Moses at Mount Sinai. In that Covenant, God, Who had liberated His people from slavery in Egypt, promised to make the Israelites His own people, to lead them to the Promised Land and to protect them from their enemies. The people, in response to His Covenant, agreed to obey the Ten Commandments, which were handed down to Moses and conveyed to the people. The Ten Commandments are a list of instructions for living out our Covenant relationship with God. The first four Commandments demand our reverence for God, for His holy name, for His holy day and for our parents. The remaining commandments require that we respect life and care for one another, God’s own people.
Because the Gospel reading portrays Jesus as causing a scandal by his prophetic cleansing of the Temple, Paul says that Jesus’ cross is a “stumbling block,” to the Jews and “foolishness” to Gentiles. A crucified Christ did not fit into the Jewish concept of a triumphant political Messiah, and the suffering Jesus did not appeal to the intelligentsia of Corinth. Hence, Paul simply reminds the Corinthians of something they already knew: “The ‘foolishness’ of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the ‘weakness’ of God is stronger than human strength.”
The Gospel gives us the dramatic account of Jesus purging the Temple of its merchants and money-changers, followed by a prediction of His death and Resurrection. The Jerusalem Temple was the glory of Jerusalem and was a symbol of Jewish religion, life, and community. However, the merchants and the money changers had converted the House of God into a noisy place of business, making it impossible for people to pray and worship God. Jesus was angry at the Temple authorities for allowing the commercialization of faith and for failing to preserve the Temple’s beauty and holiness. The cleansing of the Temple symbolically reminds us that our church is a House of God; we need to take care of it and preserve its holiness.
Further, Jesus identifies Himself as the Temple: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” St. John immediately clarifies the meaning of this statement when he states that Jesus refers to the temple as His body. Later, St. Paul established the link between the Temple of Christ’s body and our own bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 3:16. Paul says: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” This has serious implications for a deeper meaning of the Ten Commandments, for if we are truly God’s temple, any sin we commit is offensive to God simply because we are His temple, with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Therefore, sin desecrates God’s temple, which is our body.
The readings symbolically remind us that we are the temple of God and must preserve our holy bodies. How do we do this? Lent gives us the opportunity to cleanse ourselves of sin and to grow in holiness. As noted in this week’s bulletin, we have several activities in our parish this week: Confession and Adoration on Wednesday from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, concluding with Benediction at 7:00 pm and Stations of the Cross on Friday at 6:00 pm, followed by Bible study led by Deacon Vince, in which he will focus on the Sunday readings. Please join us and make use of these opportunities.
The reflection for this week is to identify one area in your life that prevents you from preserving the temple of God—your body—and keeping it holy. One way to do this is to find at least one day this week to attend daily Mass and go to confession.