Third Sunday of Lent (Year B)

March 7, 2021

St. Anselm Church –  Sudbury, MA

Readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/030721-YearB.cfm

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Homily:

Jesus was really on a roll, in today’s gospel. He was full of zeal in his father’s house – the Temple in Jerusalem. He was angry, it seems, and got to yelling a bit:  against the exploitative money changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, who preyed on poor devotees and pilgrims who came to worship from far and wide, the fat cats of the big bad city, with no mercy to the wide-eyed country folk and urban poor who had come to worship.  He yelled and overturned their money tables.

The message seems to be: if this is how you misuse the human built temple (which their people had spent 46 years and infinite money to build), how much worse do you treat the real temple — the human body, which is a dwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s living home, the temple that is the bodies of the poor pilgrim, the young mother with child, the refugee or exile, the landless laborer, or indeed the prophets of old or the Messiah, Jesus…come in humble human form to be God-with-us / Emmanuel

In John’s gospel this story comes very early on in Jesus’ ministry, right in the second chapter. It’s Jesus’ big public debut, his mission statement announced to the world.  I’m here to clean house! Spring cleaning!  Some of our ways have become old, stale, downright wrong. We’ve got to change.

          Sounds much like what all of us need to do at times.  It sounds like our project every Lent — to clean house, to reset and turn our eyes back onto God’s values and give up those attitudes, ways and things that impede us in the moral life, in a spiritually fulfilling life, in a life of union with God. 

          Some people love this gospel passage because Jesus gets angry. It’s the one place in all the gospels when we hear of Jesus expressing anger.  I think we may like this because we get angry too.  And that anger can feel like strength to us. You feel powerful for a little bit in an angry outburst, even if the thing you’re angry about is something you can’t easily change.  But for those who like this angry Jesus, it’s not how he showed his power.  In this scene it’s more like an announcement of his mission statement: to purify his religion of its excesses, to cleanse his society of its mistreatment of the vulnerable, to make human kingdoms look more like God’s kingdom where all are welcome and all are one.  For Jesus’ strength was shown not in anger but in faithfulness

          In fact St. Paul writes to the Corinthian community of Christians saying that Jesus’ proclamation and thus our proclamation is something on the face of it very unpowerful: the cross, upon which Jesus was crucified.  On the face of it this is a symbol of weakness, of loss, not of strength.  How can this be our proclamation? 

          It’s because to proclaim Christ crucified is to proclaim that our God’s ways are not our ways. God’s strength is shown in faithfulness regardless of the cost, to justice, to love, to peace, even if it brings about one’s death.  In human weakness God is strong in us.  In Jesus’ bodily weakness before the powers of the world — his passion and death — God is shown strong and ultimately triumphant — his resurrection. 

          God shows his faithfulness to us through Jesus’ freely walking to Calvary bearing the weight of the instrument of his execution — the cross, the sins of the world. He remembered the promise he made in faithfulness, right to the end, just as he said to the criminals executed on his left and his right: “Today you will be with me in paradise”.  Likewise he says it to us; with a contrite heart, we too despite our sins, will be with him in paradise.

Do we invest ourselves in, and identify ourselves with, the crucified body of Christ? 

– Do we stand with the marginal and suffering, or take our own sufferings as occasions of Christ’s grace to be poured into us, of oneness with the battered and bruised Christ so we will with him be raised?

– Do we spend our time on building the impermanent edifices of this world — like those who spent themselves entirely on the construction of the temple over decades — or do we let our center of worship be the temple of Christ’s body, and our body too which is a temple of the Holy Spirit?

Certainly we don’t have the strength on our own to be faithful. But with Jesus we can be.  Walking through this life with Jesus and with one another, we will be faithful. The early martyrs of the Church (don’t forget that Christianity was at first a persecuted faith in the ambit of the Roman Empire) are often accounted as facing their sufferings with joy.  Again, a paradox of faith.  How could one have joy when on trial or at the point of execution? 

Because they were not alone: they knew their redeemer was Jesus. He lives! And he was faithful to them. 

As St. Paul writes, ‘whether we live or die we are the Lord’s’ (Romans 14:8). 

          Faithfulness isn’t always easy, but it’s always about not being alone.  Faithfulness can entail suffering, but faithfulness is the fruit of deep love.  You know this by: 

  • walking with a loved one through illness,
  • helping a neighbor who falls down to get up,
  • calling a friend far away to share heart-to-heart,
  • comforting a crying child,
  • saying to a spouse “we will get through this together”,
  • praying “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

Keep us faithful Lord for we know that together with you we will be in paradise. We will have life and have it to the full. 

  • We may not be great in the eyes of this world, but we will be good. 
  • We may not be powerful in the eyes of the world, but we will be strong in LOVE. 
  • We won’t be self-sufficient, but we will have real companions in Jesus and in neighbors and friends. 

Let’s be that circle of companions at St. Anselm’s.  Let’s put more people in the circle and strengthen our bonds.  Let’s walk nearer to our God and nearer to one another — in FAITHFULNESS. 

For guess what? We are a gift to one another; God has given us as a gift to each other. Most of all he’s given us the gift of himself, of Jesus, who did not turn away but loved us faithfully to the end. 

That’s why we proclaim Christ Crucified — a testament to a faithful God who loves in the deepest way.  We mustn’t be afraid, then, about the future, but concentrate on the proclamation: As God is faithful to us, let us be faithful to God and our neighbors, and walk together. 

Lead us, Lord!

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,

but we proclaim Christ crucified

  • Faithfulness to God, not money
  • The temple that lasts is that of Jesus’ body — raised in glory by God’s imense power in only three days. Yet we focus our energies on 46 years of temple construction as if it’s a permanent thing.  Invest instead in the path not of grandeur but of oneness with the just one who, though crucified along with his friends, is the vessel that holds the power of God. 
  • Because we KNOW what God does with weakness, death — he raises it up to glory and new life

Jesus overthrows the tables of the money changers

The most prominent line that jumps out at me is from the second reading, from 1 Corinthians:

“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom but we proclaim Christ crucified”

– We are so used to seeing the crucifix, but it’s truly a shock, that a religion would have as its emblem and symbol a tortured executed body.

– We have taken this as our proclamation because of what it says about our God: 

– God loves us so much as to walk with us in complete solidarity, to go to this painful end with and for us. 

– And it is in this divine self-sacrifice in and through human frailty that we are led to Divine glory, for Jesus rose and so will we.

– Thus we can take a memorial of danger, suffering and death, not as a source of fear and revulsion, but of assurance of God-with-us.

Do we invest ourselves in, identify ourselves with, the crucified body of Christ? 

– Do we stand with the marginal and suffering, or take our own sufferings as occasions of Christ’s grace to be poured into us, of oneness with the battered and bruised Christ so we will with him be raised?

– Do we spend our time no building the impermanent edifices of this world — like those who spent themselves entirely on the construction of the temple over decades — or do we let our center be the temple of Christ’s body, our body too a temple of the Holy Spirit?

If there is one word which captures the meaning of the Cross, and of the Ten Commandments, and of Jesus’ railing against the commercialization of the temple — is FAITHFULNESS.

– God is faithful to us in Jesus’ freely walking to calvary bearing the weight of the instrument of his execution — the cross, the sins of the world. he remembered the promise he made in faithfulness, even to the end, as he said to the criminals executed with him: “Today you will be with me in paradise”.  As much he says it to us — with a contrite heart, we too despite our sins, will be with him in paradise.

– God calls us to faithfulness in the ten commandments too  — our response to a God who is faithful to us:

– Be faithful to God – commandments 1, 2 & 3

– Be faithful to your relationships – commandments 4, 6, 9

– Be faithful to God’s values of life & justice – 5, 7, 8, 10

Ten Commandments

  • What about turning shalt nots in to thou shall…
  • Three faithfulnesses:
    • Faithfulness to God
    • Faithfulness to our relationships – parents, spouses, neighbors
    • Faithfulness to God’s values of life, of justice – no murder, theft, envy, greed