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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

3rd SUNDAY OF LENT (B) - MARCH 8, 2015

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:

PRE-NOTE: Parishes with Elect (those to be baptized at the Easter Vigil) will be using the A-Cycle readings these three weeks. Click Here for these reflections.

WELCOME to the latest recipients of "First Impressions," the parishioners in St. Theresa Parish in Oakland, Ca.



It is customary to give a title to today’s reading from Exodus. Usually it is called "The Ten Commandments." In the Hebrew text they aren’t called "Commandments," but are simply known as the "Ten Words." Does that change how we hear and respond to them? Not as laws and regulations, but more as a guide to understanding the will of God. They tell us what God rejects – and what we should as well.

The "Ten Words," or Decalogue, was celebrated in liturgical settings as a renewal of the covenant with God (Deuteronomy 31:10 ff). God liberated Israel from slavery and made the people a holy nation. The people, on their part, accepted God’s will to be the chosen people and to manifest their holiness and express their gratitude to God by living a just life.

The Ten Commandments don’t cover a lot of everyday life; they are not comprehensive. Instead, they address proper behavior in some marginal situations, like idolatry, murder and violation of property. They are a light to guide our journey. Hence, another translation for "commandment" is "direction" or "teaching." They reveal the will of God which "directs" our way of life with God and with neighbor. We don’t observe them to earn God’s pleasure. We use them to help us know the direction our lives should take so as to live as God’s holy people.

The first three gospels place the "cleansing of the Temple" at the end of Jesus’ ministry. But John has it at the beginning. Obviously these writers weren’t interested in chronology, but theology, the meaning of the narrative for us. In today’s passage John shows Jesus fulfilling the prophetic hopes of the prophets. Malachi (3:14) and Zechariah (14: 1-21) who had anticipated the messianic age when God would come "suddenly" into the Temple to "purify and cleanse it."

John is setting up the rest of his narrative. Jesus’ ministry will overturn the religious laws and drive out greed, hypocrisy and legalism in religious practice. He was going to establish a new and holy temple – the temple of his body – where God and humanity would enter into a new relationship.

The scene takes place in the outer courts of the Gentiles. That’s where a variety of animals were sold for the Passover feast to pilgrims who had traveled a distance. The moneychangers would exchange foreign coins for the acceptable Temple ones. They were known to defraud people in the exchange. In a subtle touch by John, Jesus shows a milder attitude towards the sellers of doves which were the offerings of the poor. Perhaps he remembered his own parents only being able to afford doves when they went to the temple to offer sacrifice.

Prophets like Jeremiah and Zachariah had warned against corrupting the Temple. They envisioned a purified, ideal Temple, where there would be no commerce. This purified Temple would have open access to all peoples. Just previous to this passage Jesus replaced water with wine at Cana. Now he is replacing the Temple with himself. Where will people go for a full and welcome reception by God? To Jesus, whose resurrected body will be that new temple.

Later Jesus will tell the Samaritan woman (John 4) that true worship of God is not in one place, but in "spirit and truth." The way to this true worship will be opened up by Jesus’ death and resurrection. The authorities want a "sign" to back up what he is doing and saying. The miracles in John’s Gospel are signs, meant to reveal Jesus’ glory and show that he has come from God.

Signs can be ambiguous: they can prompt genuine faith, but they can also present Jesus merely as a wonder worker. This is an inadequate response to who he is – the one who reveals God. Later, Jesus will say about the signs he performed before his disciples, "Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed" (20:29). Jesus is weary of those who will give themselves to him based on his performing spectacles. They cannot be faithful disciples, especially when the wonderful signs cease and the sign of his death takes their place.

Jesus has not eliminated cult and worship. We are a sacramental church, but we need him to cleanse our worship. Later in the gospel Jesus will again be asked for a sign and he will offer himself as living bread, the meal through which we share in his resurrection (6:30ff). When we eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord we are aware of our need for forgiveness and the cleansing Jesus’ resurrected body brings to us.

The risen Lord enters our lives, forgives our sins, cleansing us so that we can give fitting worship to our God. We become a cleansed temple. Through Jesus, the "temple raised up" in three days, we have been given forgiveness and freedom. We don’t receive them because we have followed detailed and perfect rituals, but through the gift we have received in Christ.

Jesus doesn’t just drive out the merchants and cleanse the temple. John tells us that it was preparation time for Passover. Another, more perfect Passover sacrifice is being prepared and Jesus’ death will replace the former sacrifices offered in God’s house.

Jesus’ angry actions might make some of us uncomfortable. Someone described the Jesus depicted in today’s story as "the muscular Jesus." Sometimes the gentle images of Jesus risk making him seem too soft. But today’s depiction shows us how the wild and convicted Jesus could ruffle the religious niceties of the Temple staff and cause the Romans to begin to wonder about this brash prophet from up north. The Jesus we heard about a few weeks ago who reached out and touched the leper, is the same one who wrestled with Satan in the desert and won. This is also the Jesus who will accept and bear his cross with the same zeal for God he shows us in today’s gospel. Perhaps we do meet today "the muscular Jesus."

What was it, besides the merchants’ dishonest practices, that stirred Jesus’ anger? Perhaps it meant that the Temple wasn’t open equally to all people. What was wrong with the coinage of foreigners? Why couldn’t foreigners and their money also praise God in the same way the local Jewish population did? Doesn’t that challenge the openness and hospitality of our places of worship?

Maybe we lack "zeal" for our own temple, our parish church, and attend worship merely to receive. Do we consider how we might serve and promote the gospel through our service as ministers at the altar and as representatives of our "temple" to the community? According to our gifts, our goal should be to make our "house of prayer" a welcome place for all peoples, as the zealous Jesus desires.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030815-third-sunday-lent.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.

Psalm 19: 8

I hope that you are not journeying alone this Lent. During this season, we should realize the great gift we have in the community known as "Church" and the importance of solidarity. In the Psalm today, we have a celebration of the commandments that God handed down to His people in the days of the Exodus, the same journey that every believer takes when they follow in freedom the path set by the Lord. In the New Testament, we realize the original Ten Commandments direct us to live our lives as true believers whose love for God is expressed in the way we live in love and harmony with one another. As it is written in the Vatican II document, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes): "Thus the church, at once ‘a visible organization and a spiritual community,’ travels the same journey as all of humanity and shares the same earthly lot with the world: it is to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God" (40). We are not to set ourselves apart as better than others but to be yeast that helps the bread of humanity to rise.

This brings us to solidarity, another one of the tenets of our Catholic Social Teachings. As stated by the USCCB, "We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that ‘if you want peace, work for justice." The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict." This Lent, reflect on or discuss with others how we are fulfilling that mission and what we could do to better carry it out. Two avenues already in place at Sacred Heart are the Lenten CRS Rice Bowl campaign and our Global Outreach Committee. In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes action against injustice. He is unafraid to let his opinions be heard. Do we speak out against injustice where we see it, or do we assume it is someone else’s responsibility? How do we express solidarity with our fellow human beings around the world and at home? How do we display our hope that a season of justice will come, our trust that "wisdom is given to the simple?"

To join the efforts of the Global Outreach Committee that seeks to end injustice through Fair Trade and other projects, contact Vince Schneider at vpsch@nc.rr.com .

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries Sacred Heart 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 Exodus reading:

"I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

the place of slavery.

You shall not have other gods before me.

You shall not carve idols for yourselves...."

Reflection:

The Ten Commandments reveal the will of God which "directs" our way of life with God and with neighbor. We don’t observe them to earn God’s pleasure. We use them to help us know the direction our lives should take so as to live as God’s holy people.

So we ask ourselves:

  •  What "idols" draw you away from God and God’s ways?

  •  Aren’t they just distractions, quick to fade and be replaced by another temporary "idol" too?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  •  Warren Gregory #0156518 (On death row since 5/18/93)
  •  David Lynch #0251740 (5/27/93)
  •  Jeffrey Barrett #0021418 (6/1/93)

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

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://www.catholicsmobilizing.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: http://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.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

2. "Homilías 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 Or jboll@preacherexchange.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.preacherexchange.com

Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías 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.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

 


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