March 11, 2012 – Third Sunday of Lent
In the first reading from the Book of Exodus, the Lord gives us a whole host of laws and precepts — You shall not have other Gods besides me. Keep holy the Sabbath. Honor your father and mother. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not covet your neighbor’s belongings. And so on. They are the Ten Commandments, and most of us are familiar with them. In fact, many of us likely use them as a guide when we prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They offer us a reference point for how to live according to God’s law just as they did for the Jews who first received them — putting God before all else and loving and serving our neighbor.
But the list of laws here is not an exhaustive one. They offer us a standard for living, but Jesus wants more. As Christian disciples, we must do more.
We look to the cross as our standard. We look to the cross as our “how-to” guide. In that act of total self-donation, in that act of utter selfishness and sacrificial love, Jesus shows us how to live.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us, “We proclaim Christ crucified.” What is a “stumbling block to Jews” and “foolishness to Gentiles” we know actually shows forth God’s power and His unconditional self-giving love for us. Yet beyond simply looking to the cross in an act of awe-filled wonder and gazing, utterly amazed at what Christ has done for us, we are called to follow Him. That means putting God’s will before all else – even when it isn’t fun. That means loving and serving others in a total, self-sacrificing sort of way. That means, for some whom we call martyrs, loving God and proclaiming the Gospel even to the point of death.
It is a radical calling. It is not an easy way of life. In fact, for most of us, it takes constant work, reminding ourselves of what’s important, reminding ourselves of Whom we live for, and striving to be a good witness. But Christian discipleship lived in this way, discipleship lived through stewardship, as it were, makes an incredible impact on us and on those around us. Stewardship helps us become more perfectly the people God created us to be, and offers others a witness to the beautiful truth of the Gospel. It is all about self-giving love, and it’s a wonderfully fulfilling way of life.
In today’s Gospel, we hear how Christ went into the temple and drove people out — he turned over tables and spilled coins, proclaiming as He did, “stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” He saw people abusing the temple. What is to be a place of worship had become a place for shopping, and He reminded everyone, in a very dramatic way, about what was important. He called their attention to the true purpose of the temple, and demanded that they respect it.
On the cross, Christ calls our attention, in a very dramatic way, to the true purpose of life. We are to give of ourselves – of our time, our talents, and our treasure — in a selfless, constant, unconditional way. It isn’t always pleasant, but it is always powerful. It is always life giving.
Completely opposite of what the world tells us, Christ shows us that we are called to live for others — specifically, for God. And in living for Him, we pour ourselves out in service to others.
It is radical. It is powerful. It is fulfilling. It is stewardship.