Homily (2) 3rd Sunday of Lent Year B: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Exod 20:1-17; Ps 19:8-11; 1 Cor 1:22-25 and John 2: 13-25
True Relationship with God
The readings of last Sunday stressed the offering of ourselves and beings, personal feelings, our freedom, what we love, our ears and hands, our bodies, our families, jobs, our opinions, our illnesses, sufferings, fears, joys, faith, hope, and treasures to the Lord! A theme of what we must do in order to be in good relationship with God and our neighbor emerges from today’s Bible readings. It is by abiding in his laws of love, worshipping in clean conscience in a temple not built by human hands, and cherishing the wisdom of the cross!
This wisdom goes back to God the Father who creates and liberates his people in the Genesis and Exodus accounts. He gives the 10 commandments, in today’s first reading (Exod 20:1-17cf. Deut 5:6-21), significantly, on Mount Sinai, God’s dwelling place, in ancient times. However, these laws and norms of life, through his prophet, Moses, were not meant to make life difficult for anyone, but to highlight God’s loving covenant relationship with his people. It is an invitation to obedience, contemplation, action and love.
As Psalm 19 would put it, these laws of the Lord are perfect, refreshing the soul, more precious than gold, sweeter than syrup and honey (Ps 19). It shows us how to live and love one another. It underlines the worship and respect we owe our one true God, and our neighbors, and families in all circumstances of life, recognizing what God has done for us, continued in Christ events, the wisdom and power of God the Father, that Saint Paul stresses in today’s 2nd reading.
Paul says, “brothers and sisters: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:22-25).
Christ, the power of God, the wisdom of God, the “new Moses” sticks to the Wisdom of his Father in his ministry of love to all, the new law of Jesus, the forgiveness, the beatitude, obedience, liberating, healing, orderliness and cleansing of the Temple, the mountain, the dwelling place of God. Yes this Temple for Christ in today’s Gospel (John 2:13-25) must remain not only as a universal place of prayer, opened for all, but must be kept clean (Mk 11:17, Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11), not restricted to the aristocratic ruling groups. It must not be turn into a market place for gambling and exchanging money of the ruling elites for profits.
Christ drives the idolaters away from the Temple. He responds to those who asks for a sign of his authority to clean the temple, renewing the law, with “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” By this, and in his spiritual wisdom, Christ is referring to his body, his death and the resurrection. As Benedict XVI emphasized in the Jesus of Nazareth 1, Christ is referring to the end of the era of the Temple and the beginning of a new Temple not built with human hands., but with spirit and truth. Christ, in every liturgical season is this new Temple who gathers the poor and the rich alike, and unites everyone in the sacrament of his body and blood. He is the new Temple of humanity for those who strives and lives the spirit of Lent.
As another Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, Lent continues to be a time we reevaluate our relationship with God and our neighbors. Jean-Batiste Chautard stresses this in his work, The Soul of the Apostolate, when he says, “in the soul of anyone called by God to high sanctity the life is always essentially a mixture of contemplation (love of God) and action (love of neighbor).” Lent is time we re-examine our observance of God’s precepts and of His Church; the respect we owe ourselves, and the dignity we give to other human persons of all cultures. It is a favorable time for our spiritual cleansing, renewal, purification and enlightenment in the laws and love of true relationship with Christ and our neighbors.