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March 3, 2024

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:


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 readings:


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. Whitfield.

Go to: https://preacherexchange.com/bookreviews.htm


“Honor your father and your mother.”
Exodus 20:12

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. http://www.volunteercaregiving.org/

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


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 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?


"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 3/27/1995)
  • 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: 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/


“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



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:  https://www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the “First Impressions” CD link on the left.


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