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“FIRST IMPRESSIONS”
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (B) March 7, 2021
Exodus 20: 1-17; Psalm 19;
I Cor. 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25
By Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

WELCOME: to the latest email recipients of “First Impressions,” the Zoom retreatants from Blessed Sacrament Parish, Manhattan, NY.


On the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays in Lent the readings from Year A are used when there are those in the congregation who are preparing for Baptism (the “Elect”) at the Easter Vigil. Go to our webpage for these alternate reflections:  LENT III (A)


 

 LENT

 III

  Year B

For today’s gospel story, about Jesus cleansing the temple, we may have to moderate our criticism against the religious establishment of his day in the light of our own experiences. For example, in the vestibule of my boyhood parish church the ushers would sell chances on a new car, a fund raiser for parish expenses. Here is a really a strange one: as you entered the church, before you went up the aisle to your pew, adults had to put a dime on a coin table staffed by an usher – a pew fee. Customs like that weren’t unique just to my parish church. Throughout the world, at churches and shrines of all religions, there are people selling paraphernalia and souvenirs. So, we shouldn’t be too hard on those merchants and moneychangers at the Temple the day Jesus arrived, when he got indignant and threw them out. It seems no religion is exempt from people hawking their goods for profit.

What was all that merchandising activity in the Temple area about? The currency used in daily commercial dealings was the Roman denarius and the Greek drachma. But the coins bore pagan and imperial images and so were not allowed for paying the Temple tax. Hence, money changers were a necessary presence to convert the common coinage to coins that would be acceptable for Temple offerings. Animal merchants were also necessary because people coming from a long distance would want to buy animals to offer in Temple sacrifice.

There is more than Temple cleansing in John’s account. He places the episode at the beginning of his gospel to announce that Jesus is fulfilling Israel’s messianic hopes. The prophet Malachi (3:1-4) said that at the beginning of God’s saving work the Messiah would come to cleanse and purify the Temple. Zechariah had similar expectations, “On that day there shall no longer be any merchant in the house of the Lord of hosts” (14:21). Jesus’ mission is just beginning and John is announcing “that day” has arrived, as the prophets foretold and the people had yearned to see. The Temple cleansing announced the arrival of the new messianic age. As was foretold, the Lord had come to his temple to replace former rituals and systems of worship with himself, the new and living Temple. In Jesus, God’s holy temple, we are invited into the intimate relationship Jesus had with his Father.

Some of Jesus’ contemporaries might also have taken exception to the market atmosphere outside the Temple. If they did, they would have interpreted what Jesus did as a symbolic prophetic action. Recall the prophet Jeremiah’s words about some people’s Temple pieties, “Has this house which bears my name become in your eyes a den of thieves?” (Jeremiah 7:11) Speaking for God Jeremiah criticized those who worshiped in words and gestures, but did not cease oppressing the poor, committing murder, theft and worshiping pagan gods. “This rather is what I command them: Listen to my voice; then I shall be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, so that you may prosper” (7:23). Jesus, like the prophet Jeremiah, in words and actions, came to renew worship and bring all people to God. In Jesus, God’s holy temple, we are invited into the intimate relationship Jesus had with his Father.

People would not have to go to the Temple to offer sacrifice any longer, for Jesus’ body is where we meet our God. Jesus the new Temple, by his death on the cross, has cleansed humanity and freed us from sin’s domination. He tells his critics, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” A recurring theme in John is peoples misunderstanding of Jesus’ words, failing to see beyond the material level to the deeper meaning of what he said. Jesus’ reference to “three days” points ahead to his resurrection: His body is the new Temple, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice we are welcomed and accepted into God’s holy presence.

Here is a view those at the altar see at the offertory of Mass. From the back of the congregation representatives of the community bring offerings of bread and wine to the altar. The priests and ministers receive them and place them on the altar. But they are not just bread and wine, are they? They represent the gift of ourselves to God, in all our human limitations and misdirections. Once placed on the altar we pray, with the presider, that the Spirit will change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ – and that our lives, represented by the gifts, will also be transformed into Christ’s body and blood – so that through our words and actions Christ will be truly present to the world.

In the cleansing story Jesus certainly does not fit with the pious paintings and statues I grew up with in that parish church. He seems wildly out of control in today’s gospel. He turns tables over, scatters people and animals. For those who were there his reason for doing what he did would hardly justify the mess he made and the disruption in their lives. “Take these out of here and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

Who is this Jesus and what difference does he make in our lives? John has presented Jesus having a power given him by God. Previous to today’s account he had just transformed water into wine and now By his authoritative actions in the Temple, he is announcing the fulfillment of Israel’s long wait for a Messiah. He is the ideal Temple and in him God is available to all people.

During Lent we are invited to fasting, prayer and almsgiving. We don’t perform these works to earn God’s pleasure, or admittance into God’s presence. We already have that through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. In Jesus the Temple area is cleansed and ready to admit us. Then, why the recommended Lenten practices? Actually, they are not just for Lent, they are year-round disciplines that should open our hearts to those who: can’t fast, because they have no food; can’t pray because they are pursued, or in danger; can’t give alms because they have no money to give. Lent is a time for intensive reflection on what we should be doing all year round: welcoming into our community and attending to those that our prayer, fasting and almsgiving bring to our consciousness.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/030721-YearB.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

“In those days, God delivered all these commandments”
Exodus 20:1

In today’s Reading 1, we hear again the Ten Commandments that God gives to Moses on Mt. Sinai in order to help the Israelites live in relationship with God and others, rightly and peacefully; a moral code. Seems easy enough. Well, maybe not so easy, since in subsequent texts, the Israelites add legislative codes that include rules for caring for the poor, forgiving debts, welcoming the stranger, and stewardship of the land.

These rules, for how those who are most vulnerable should be treated, are included in three Legislative Codes in the Old Testament: the Covenant Code (Exodus 21:1-23:33), the Law of Holiness (Leviticus 17:1-26.46), and the Deuteronomic Code (Deuteronomy 4:44-26:19). The Codes exist as guides to right worship and living. Okay, things are pretty much now spelled out.

Apparently not. Because, if the Israelites were following the rules, we would not have the testimonies of the prophets, such as Hosea, Isaiah, and Amos, who condemn injustice done to the poor as a sign of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Throughout the Old Testament: the peoples’ faithfulness is judged not only by faithfulness to God but also by their treatment of the widow, orphan, migrant, and those who are poor. We see examples of this in Hosea 4, Isaiah 1; 5; 32; 58, Jeremiah 5; 7; 9; 34, Ezekiel 18:5; 22; 34; Amos 5:7-17; 8; and Micah 2. Each describes the result when leaders fail to follow God’s commandments, including those on social justice. For example, the prophecy of Amos about the fall of the northern kingdom was tied to his criticism of the misuse and hoarding of wealth by the upper class while the poorest suffered (5:7-8:6). What makes a person observe God’s rules or choose to ignore them?

Sister Joan Chittister, in her book, “The Ten Commandments: Laws of the Heart,” (Orbis, 2006, 11-12) writes that the Ten Commandments are “an adventure in human growth. We are not so much convicted by them as we are to be transformed by them. . .All the Sinai Tablets on the walls of all the courtrooms in the land will not assure us of justice in the courts if we do not have hearts already shaped by what the sculptures signify.”

We have to live the commandments with our hearts--that is the transformation and the difference.

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. “Faith Book” is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days
I will raise it up.”

Reflection:

During Lent we are invited to fasting, prayer and almsgiving. We don’t perform these works to earn God’s pleasure, or admittance into God’s presence. We already have that through what Jesus has done for us. Rather, our Lenten practices help us see and respond to those too hungry to fast; too scattered to pray and too poor to give alms.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Do my Lenten observances make me more sensitive to those in need?
  • Who are they and how shall I respond to them?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

“One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out." ---Pope Francis

This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. Conditions, even without the pandemic, are awful in our prisons. Imagine what it is like now with the virus spreading through the close and unhealthy prison settings. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Michael Braxton #0043529 (On death row since 11/21/1997)
  • Jimmie Lawrence #0597164 (12/11/1997)
  • John M. Williams #0599379 (3/5/1998)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/


On this page you can sign “The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty.” Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

“First Impressions” is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like “First Impressions” sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: https://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for “Liturgical Years A, B and C.”

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the “First Impressions” CD link on the left.

2. “Homilias Dominicales” —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find “Preachers’ Exchange,” which includes “First Impressions” and “Homilias Dominicales,” as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. “First Impressions” is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like “First Impressions” sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626


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