Third Sunday of Lent – B

Readings: Ex 20:1–17; Ps 19:8–11; 1 Cor 1:22–25; Jn 2:13–25

“Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17).

Reflection 1.

Every believer would proudly profess that he or she believes in God. Perhaps the question that needs to be asked is: “Who or what is the God we believe in?” Is our God a ‘police-man’ god, a ‘grand-dad’ god, an ‘aspirin’-god, a ‘super-market’ god or the God Jesus came to reveal? Do we worship God or use God? May His word confront us and lead us to the true God. Have a ‘God-filled’ weekend!

The first reading from the Book of Exodus speaks of the Ten Commandments and spells out the implications of these commandments. God did not give the commandments for his own profit but for the sake of the people. When the people observed the commandments they were the gainers, when they disobeyed, they themselves were the losers. In other words, God gave the commandments out of love, that his people might attain happiness. Someone has called the Ten Commandments “the ten guidelines to happiness”; unfortunately some have interpreted the commandments as restrictions to man’s freedom. The first of the commandments forbids the worship of false gods, yet all of us at some time or another have created gods to suit ourselves and often these false gods hold sway over our lives. Self-sufficiency and our proud self-image can become the ‘God’ we worship in our lives. Keeping the law for the sake of the law results in bondage, while observing the law out of love for God and respect for one’s neighbor results in true freedom.

Knowing the Law

One of President Reagan’s favorite stories involves a farmer and a lawyer whose cars collided. The farmer took a look at the lawyer, then reached in the back of his car and took out a bottle of whiskey. “Here, you look pretty shaken up,” “Take a nip of this; it’ll steady your nerves.” After taking five or six gulps, the lawyer suggested the farmer have a drink himself. “Not me,” declared the farmer. “I’m waiting for the traffic police.”

In today’s section of his letter St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that he has not come to oblige the Jews with miracles that they wish to see performed, or with words of wisdom that the Greeks desire to discuss and debate. Paul’s sole desire was to preach Jesus crucified. Jesus himself came not to offer people what they wanted but rather what they needed: salvation. People were looking for an easy way out, a religion that would cost them nothing. Jesus offered them salvation through the Cross, foolishness to the wise. God’s foolishness is stronger than human strength.

People need houses to live in and human beings need food to survive. God did not need a habitation to dwell in, nor was he in need of sacrifices or offerings. Yet God, through Moses, instructed the people of Israel to offer him in sacrifice animals and the products of the fields. Certainly God for his own sake did not need these offerings, but in his goodness he adapted himself to the mentality of his people, for this simple reason: the neighboring people offered similar sacrifices to idols; if God had not provided the Israelites with similar ways of worship in honour of the true God, they would have been easily drawn to worship the false gods of their neighbors. Hence the Israelites were asked to worship in the temple and offer sacrifices and offering to the true God of Israel. Jesus himself went to the temple in Jerusalem to worship and he partook in their prayers and sacrifices offered in the temple.

In today’s Gospel we are told that Jesus was enraged at the way things were conducted in the temple. Jesus drove out those who were doing business in the temple, not because it was business; for even as business it was a valuable service at a feast. He was angry and upset because their motive was diluted by their manipulative intention to make a ‘fast buck’. He certainly did not condemn the sincerity and the good faith of the simple people who honored his Father in the best way they knew, by fulfilling the rules and obligations prescribed by Moses. But he condemned the greed of the religious leaders who took advantage of the simple folks to become rich under the pretext of honoring God.

All the four Gospels mention the cleansing of the temple, which implies that this was a significant action on the part of Jesus. Jesus wanted to rid the temple of false worship, implying that we too should get rid of the false gods and the false pretexts we use in the guise of worshipping God. “Take all this here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market place.” We cannot do business with God and we cannot bargain with Him. Nothing that we do can gain us any merit; all that we receive from God is a gratuitous gift given freely by God with no strings attached. Jesus also reminded his disciples of the motive of his action of cleansing the temple: “Zeal for the Father’s house consumes me.” What we do in God’s name is for Him alone and not for any ulterior motive. Can we say that zeal for God and His kingdom is the passion of our lives?
In the last part of today’s gospel Jesus, after cleansing the temple said, “Destroy this temple and after three days I will raise it up.” Scholars estimate that it was in the year 29AD that Jesus made this declaration. At that time the temple to which Jesus referred had been in the process of being rebuilt over a period of forty-six years. The people to whom Jesus spoke were thinking that Jesus was referring to the temple that was being rebuilt. Jesus was however referring to another temple, another dwelling place of God, his own body.

The Jerusalem temple was sacred, a holy place where devout Jews came to worship. Infinitely more sacred was Jesus himself. He was the temple; he was the perfect priest, the worshipper of the Father. Jesus did not say “I will rebuild the temple,” but “I will raise it up.” From the destruction of the temple of his own body, he rose from the dead and every believer will also rise again through the Spirit that raised Jesus. Thus we are reminded that we are the temple of God. The spiritual temple, the dwelling place of the Spirit is much more important than the structure of brick and mortar. Paintings, statues and churches are means of worshipping God but much more important is discovering the living temples and icons that we are called to be. We have to look beyond externals to the God within.

May we worship Him in spirit and in truth!

Reflection 2

Introduction:   Welcome to all those who are weary and overburdened. Welcome to all those who are faithful in their faith. Welcome to all those who are weak in faith. For, the Church belongs to you and you belong to the Church. For, we are going to celebrate as a family where saints and sinners are welcome.

Kyrie: “My house is a house of prayer”, so says the Lord in today’s Gospel. It is only we who can make of this church a true house of prayer. We come here each Sunday to pray, not just individually, but collectively as me members of a family should. Let us reflect for a moment on the attitude we bring here.

Introduction: Often, when we refer to the Church, we mean it as a building where we come for Sunday mass. For example, you say, ” I am going to the church for mass.” You are meaning to say, you are coming to this St. Therese’s Church, this building. But, in the Bible, church does not mean just a building. In the teachings of the Catholic Church, Church is much more than a building. Today, Jesus gives us a new understanding of the Church. What are they?

1. The Church is God’s house: “My house is a house of prayer.” Jesus refers to the temple of Jerusalem as his. Why? It is the building, where God lives in a special way. Though God is everywhere, God lives in the building specially built for him. It is his property.

But God, is larger than any building or any church. God says in Isaiah 66: 1-3. “With heaven my throne and earth my footstool, what house can you build for me? All of these is mine. But, my eyes are drawn to the man who trembles at my word.” Everything is His. But, this God does not act like landowners or rich and famous people of our times. He is kind and gentle to those are helpless and weak. How do I treat my God’s house? 

2. The Church is God’s People: “My house is house of prayer for all nations (Is 56:7).” The Catholic Church defines Church as people of God (Vatican II). The Church is made up of saints and sinners. All are welcome to the Church. In Christ, there is no difference between gender, race, culture or language. St. Paul says, “there is neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek…(Gal. 3>28).” The Church is a community of the people of God. All are welcome to the house of God, even those who belong to other faiths. How welcoming are we?

3. The Church is body of Christ: “Destroy this temple; I will raise it up in three days.” Jesus compared the temple to his body. The body of Christ can be understood in two ways; the physical body of Christ and the mystical body of Christ. Jesus spoke about his physical body. St. Paul spoke about mystical body, comparing the Church to the body of Christ. ” … where Christ is the head of the body (1 Cor 12: 12-14).” At mass, we eat the body of Christ, and become one body (one group) Christ. Every Christian group is a miniature church. Family is a domestic Church. How do we treat each part of this Christ’s body in our families?
Final Quote:
“Your body is the temple of the Spirit..” (1 Cor 6:19) How do I respect my body? Is my body holy enough to be a fitting dwelling place of God?

Concluding Rite: Lenten actions for your family.
1. Visit a Church this week and pray alone for sometime.
2. Pray together as a family for a special intention of your family.


Reflection 3

The reading of today gives us a good thought on how we are called to look at the commandments and the love of God.

The commandments can be divided as: love of God and love of neighbor (and that they hold dear to their life).

It is simple, when we are able to love God in its purest form; then we will also love neighbor and not exploit them at all.

Love of God is also the love of his temple and holy place [Do I make his place a market: we may not be buying and selling, but when we do not respect God in our deeds and thoughts we are making his house unholy? It could be talking and eating, or with our dress and attitude. When we are not able to respect our fellow being who has come to the house of God to pray and become holy, we abuse. I only pray and hope Jesus does not come and whip us up. Sometimes I feel he should do it now and then].

Play the game of football, we have laws and regulation. They are done for the benefit of the game and for the ones who play the game. Those who uphold the rules do it with pride because of their passion of the game and the safety of the players. If there are any violations, they are dealt with caution and pulled up; not for the sake of just punishment, but for the good of the game, for the individual and the others. It is done with love and respect for the game and all those involved in it. When it is done in this manner those reprimanded or caution also respect it for their own good, to sit out and evaluate their action and make remedy for the same.

The commandments are like this. God has given us these so that we keep them out of love and reverence rather than out of fear and compulsion. When we love God, we will keep them and also encourage others to do the same. Thus the commandments call us to keep them out of love for God, fellow human beings, for property and even towards promoting life and respecting life.

The holy Eucharist is the center of our temple of worship. All that we have in our churches and the activities must help us to come to love God closer and our fellow human beings. All that happens in the church must help an individual and the community to feel the presence of the loving God and of his neighbor and the good of all, rather than for selfish purpose.

Jesus, destroyed the temple, more still He destroyed His own self, broke Himself, so that we could love him more closer and make us a holy temple. Our bodies are made into a holy temple because He dwells within us. Let us not destroy this holy temple, with all the dirt and buying and selling; but try to enhance it with the sacraments God has given us and by living lives of genuine love for God, his church and fellow beings.

Reflection 4

Why then does Jesus drive them out? It is not clear in the text why Jesus is so angry. I will suggest an answer to this question that seems to fit both the context of this story and the human instincts that are ever present in such situations. The money-changers and merchants were not there primarily to do a service. As today, when a crowd gathers, the souvenir-hawkers and traveling-peddlers swoop down upon them to make a “fast buck”. Their motivation to do a business-service was diluted by their manipulative manner. The spirit of the authentic worshipper was demeaned by their pesty presence.

Such a diluted motivation ruins the joy of many potentially good experiences for us all. I remember a young wife telling me that the only persons she could ever have for dinner in her exquisite suburban home were people who could “do her husband some good” in his budding young business. On another occasion I remember a person spontaneously offering to guide us through a historic building in a foreign city and then boldly trying to manipulate us into giving him a generous fee.

There is nothing wrong with money-changers and animal-merchants being present in Jerusalem for a major feast. They could have added healthy dimension to the celebration with their services if only their motivation had been authentic.

Life application

A great and ambitious Emperor desired to build a temple in his kingdom. He wanted this temple to be the best man made marvel in its size and structure. To do this he needed a lot of money to complete the construction, so he levied a heavy tax on his subjects, took a loan from the neighboring kingdoms and spent many years in completing this mega structure. He was almost bankrupt by this project.

The temple was completed and everyone who visited the temple marveled at the construction and praised the emperor.

Someone brought the news, that the sage who had camped on the outskirts of his kingdom did not pay a visit to this famous temple. The emperor felt insulted and ordered the sage to be brought immediately to his court. The king with much anger roared for an explanation, “O Seer! you have insulted me, when the whole world is praising me for my temple, you had no time to pay a visit to my god, I will banish you out of my country.”

The sage with lot of humility answered, “Banish me where you have banished my god.” The King ordered a clarification. The sage opened the eyes of the king. “To build this temple you have killed so many innocent people. You levied unbearable taxes upon them. People suffered from hunger and disease and paid the money. The temple is built of blood money. The God to whom you built the temple is not there, you have banished him. It will be a great insult to the God to dwell in such a house when the real house, the living house, your beloved subjects were allowed to deteriorate and decay.”

Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.

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