PRE-NOTE: Parishes with Elect (those to
be baptized at the Easter Vigil) will be using the
these three weeks.
Click Here for these reflections.
WELCOME to the latest recipients of
"First Impressions," the parishioners in St. Theresa Parish in
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
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
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
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
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries Sacred Heart
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
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
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
So we ask ourselves:
draw you away from God and God’s ways?
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
- Jeffrey Barrett #0021418
----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
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4. "First Impressions" is
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fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory
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Irving, Texas 75062-4736
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