During this and the next two Sundays there are
options for two sets of readings. If a parish has catechumens and people
preparing for full communion at the Easter Vigil, the parish may choose to use
the readings from the A Cycle. We have posted reflections on the A Cycle on our
webpage. CLICK HERE to
view it in a new window.
We are in the midst of our Lenten reflection
and discipline. On our own, our inadequacies and sin seem to stare us in the
face. We are looking in a mirror with ourselves looking back . We want to turn
away with a sense of incompletion. Will we ever get our act together, we ask
ourselves halfway through Lent? But the scriptures won’t let us get bogged down
in self pity, or even embarrassment. They reveal a God of mercy and power today,
something the scriptures continually do for us.
All four gospels have the story of Jesus cleansing the temple. The threes
synoptic gospels have the event at the end of Jesus’ ministry, where it is an
affront to the religious authorities. As a result they conspire to have Jesus
killed. John has another purpose in mind. He places the story at the beginning
of Jesus’ ministry. It is Passover time when Jesus drives the merchants out of
the temple area. At Passover time Jews traveled to Jerusalem to observe the
feast with purification rituals and then festivals. Jesus is performing another
kind of purification for a different temple.
What about those merchants doing business in the Temple precincts? They served
an important function in the daily activities of the Temple. Animal merchants
sold the creatures that were to be sacrificed. Jews could not use the Roman, or
Greek, coins in the Temple because they had images on them with captions calling
Caesar divine. It would be blasphemy to take those coins into the Temple. So
money changers helped convert the “street money” into Jewish currency to pay the
Temple tax. While necessary, prophets like Zechariah, yearned for the day when
there would be “no longer traders in the house of the Lord” (Zech 14:21)
There are many reasons we build temples and holy places. Some are even erected
for vain glory, paid for by the well-endowed and established. They have their
name plates on the walls and pews honoring their generosity. There is much to
cleanse in our temples that seem to favor one group of people over another. But
temples are primarily built to honor the God we worship and who dwells among us.
We go to those places, those “holy places,” to remind us how close God is, the
God who listens to our prayers and is present among us everywhere, not just in
buildings and memorials.
That’s what the Temple was for the Jews, the place where God dwelt in the heart
of the community of believers. It drew the devout to pay tribute to God. The
First Temple had been destroyed and, from the text, the Second Temple was still
under construction in Jesus’ time. In the year 70 it was also destroyed by the
Romans. (The main remnant is the outer western wall, the Wailing Wall, where
today people from all over the world come to pray.) The physical Temple was
destroyed. The true temple of God’s presence, Jesus Christ, would also be
destroyed. But, as he promised, he would be raised up after three days.
Jesus referred to his body as a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. We are
joined to Christ through our baptism and so the body of Christians is also a
temple of the living and present God. Lent offers a focused time to reflect on
what makes our “house of prayer,” our bodies, unclean and in need of cleansing?
What makes our church body unclean: recent sex scandals; divisions caused by
attacks on the pope; local congregations’ attitudes towards newcomers; splits
because of economic differences; clericalism, etc.?
The opposition to Jesus asked, “What sign can you show us for doing this? They
wanted external proof of his authority. But their faith was not based on faith
in Jesus and his mission. Later, in John (6:26-31), the crowds will see the sign
of the multiplication of the loaves and will follow him. But they didn’t see the
deeper significance of the sign when Jesus explained it to them. As a result his
disciples “broke away and would not remain in his company any longer” (6:61).
There’s a Lenten reflection for us. Is our faith just skin deep, needing
reassuring signs to keep us believing? Shall we invite the Spirit of Jesus to
enter our temple to drive out what is superficial about our faith; what relies
on daily reassurance and can even evaporate when life tests us with economic
stress, sickness, family strife, aging, social disorder, etc?
Did you notice that Jesus doesn’t refer to his Father’s “temple,” but to “my
Father’s house?” What do you think he is suggesting about what our place of
worship should be like? Is it God’s house and has an “open door” policy. When
Jesus drives the merchants from the Temple grounds his disciples recall a line
from the Psalms (69): “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Jesus, a messianic
prophet, has come to purify the “house” that is his people. Did you come from a
family that welcomed guests and newcomers to your table? Was it a “house” where
outsiders felt at home even though they did not have economic or social
influence? Where guests were not of your family’s race, or national
origins...yet felt welcomed and at home?
Jesus’ opponents want a sign that will authorize his actions. He returned with a
challenge, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. The
implication is that there are destructive forces already in the temple that
would destroy it, like the negative forces that corrode our church. So, what
sign will Jesus give them that authorizes his messianic actions? He promised he
will raise up the destroyed temple in three days. He is not speaking of stone
and mortar, but to the temple that is his body. He is looking ahead to his
resurrection and to us disciples recalling his words. Jesus has authority in
this “house” because he is resurrected from the dead. Who are we? We, the
baptized, are the “home,” that welcome all to his table. We are by no means
fully cleansed but, staying in the house of God, we are being cleansed as
individuals and a church.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s
|We have a recent book on preaching posted on
our webpage. The title alone should be a draw! THE CRISIS OF BAD PREACHING:
REDEEMING THE HEART AND WAY OF THE CATHOLIC PREACHER by Joshua J.
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
“Honor your father and your mother.”
The Hellenistic period (336-146 BCE), located
between the conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great and the
establishment of Roman supremacy, is the time in which Greek culture and
learning are pre-eminent in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. It is called
Hellenistic (Greek, Hellas, "Greece") to distinguish it from the Hellenic
culture of classical Greece. During this period, a rational explanation of
Mosaic law is expressed for the first time and is motivated by a desire to
present the Jewish religion to the pagan world as a legislation designed to
produce a people of the highest virtue.
The Ten Commandments that we hear today in Reading I are sayings, or utterances,
that would form the basis for the codification of a more extensive group of 613
Jewish laws. The Ten Commandments are known by the Hebrews as the “Ten Words”
that God gave on Sinai as teachings. Accepting the Ten meant to follow a moral
code of behavior. In ancient Israel a word, or communication, not only implied
the personal presence of the speaker, a word also implied action. God is both
present and acting in the commands and the divine words call for active response
by those following them.
I would turn your attention to the commandment to respect one’s parents.
Rabbinic scholarship teaches that the first five commandments concern man’s
relationship with God. Our relationship to our parents is akin to our
relationship to God because our parents created us. Disrespect of parents is
considered an insult to God. Consider then these words from Pope John Paul II in
his 1999 Letter to the Elderly: “And what of today? If we stop to consider the
current situation, we see that among some peoples old age is esteemed and
valued, while among others this is much less the case, due to a mentality which
gives priority to immediate human usefulness and productivity. Such an attitude
frequently leads to contempt for the later years of life, while older people
themselves are led to wonder whether their lives are still worthwhile.”
What kind of society do we live in? Do we revere our elderly? Do we take care of
them and spend meaningful time with them?
If you would like to be part of an active response to the needs of the elderly,
consider participating in The Center for Volunteer Care giving.
Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
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 found in the
temple area those who sold oxen,
sheep and doves, as well as money changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area...,
To those who sold doves he said, “Take those out
of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
Jesus reveals the righteous anger God feels
when what is good and intended to
help people gets infiltrated by human greed. While mercy is always available to
those who seek it, still we cannot forget Jesus’ indignation when he meets
injustice and any restrictions on those seeking God.
So we ask ourselves:
- Is there a welcome atmosphere at my parish
church as people enter the building?
- Do I go out of my way to introduce myself
to people at church and welcome them if they are visitors?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"The death penalty is one of the great moral
issues facing our country, yet most people rarely think about it and very few of
us take the time to delve deeply enough into this issue to be able to make an
informed decision about it."
– Sister Helen Prejean
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten
people in the prison system. Each week I am posting in this space several
inmates’ names and locations. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of
them to let them know that: we have not forgotten them; are praying for them and
their families; or, whatever personal encouragement you might like to give them.
If the inmate responds, you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Charles Bond #0036850 (On death row since
- Tony S. Summers #0395658 (3/22/2011)
- Raymond Thibodeaux #0515143 (3/2/1999)
----Central Prison, P.O. 247,
Phoenix, MD 21131
Please note: Central Prison
is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed
through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.
For more information on the Catholic position
on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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/
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