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.”
1 Corinthians 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 Cycle Cycle B
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.
These are mysterious readings today on this third Sunday of Lent! The first reading, from Exodus, is simply the great commandments given to us by God. But the text seems to speak of a jealous God who inflicts punishment on the children of those who hate Him and blessings on the children of those who love Him.
Yet, at a human level, probably all of understand the truth of this kind of statement. It is not that God is inflicting punishments on children, it is only that the effects of the ways that our parents live truly touch our lives to the core. Thus, very often, the life of the child is formed by the way its parents lived while the child was young. Parents who are truly seeking God seem often to be able to pass that desire for God on to their children. And parents who ignore God also pass that attitude on to their children. The children of thieves are often thieves and the children of really virtuous parents are often virtuous. There are always exceptions, of course, but in general, this is how life works.
The second reading is about proclaiming a crucified Christ. This phrase does not strike us as so scandalous because we are people who have been exposed to the idea of a crucified Christ. To the Jews, Paul says, a crucified Christ is a stumbling block. That is because the Messiah that the Jewish people await—from their point of view—could not be killed. And a stumbling block to the Gentiles because a Messiah who is killed is obviously not very successful!
Paul wants us to know that a crucified Christ is truly the wisdom of God. We know from other parts of Paul’s writings that this crucified God, Messiah, is truly the way that God acts in our world. And for those who believe is it truly wisdom. We must embrace death to come to the Resurrection. Once again, even in human terms, this is wonderful wisdom. The alcoholic must embrace the death of his or her addiction in order to remain sober. The lustful person must allow lust to die in order to become chaste. And Jesus Himself tells us that if we want to live, we must die to self.
The Gospel is the story of the cleansing of the temple—a truly remarkable episode in the life of Jesus! The whole Christian tradition does not generally think of Jesus as having anger at all, and so Christians thinkers have to find ways to justify these angry actions of Jesus. But the Gospel today does not describe Jesus as angry, only as determined that the temple will be a place of prayer.
One of the challenges of today’s readings is whether we are able simply to accept behavior that is inappropriate, or do we do something about it? So very often most of us try to avoid such situations. Today, there are tough questions: what do we think about the possibility of war? What do we think about the death penalty? What do we think about abortion? What do we think about birth control? What do we think about the goodness or badness of the economic policies of our country?
These are questions that can make us squirm, no matter what side we come down on! We recognize that whatever our opinion, at least some others will be opposed to it. And we humans don’t like that kind of opposition. That is why there was a saying: don’t discuss religion or politics!
But we are followers of Christ and so we must seek for ways to live that will pass on a truly divinely blessed life to those who come after us. We are Christians and so we want to embrace a crucified Christ and the notion that the salvation of the world comes about by embracing death. We are a people that accepts that life must be purified, just as the temple was purified. Within ourselves, we must get rid of all that keeps us away from God and all the works of the world that do not give glory to God. In that way, our lives become more and more focused on the one thing necessary: doing the will of God!
Let us ask today that the temple of our own being may be cleansed!