March 8, 2015 – Third Sunday of Lent
The Ten Commandments, as presented to us in the first reading from Exodus, represent God’s direct teaching to us as to how we need to live and structure our lives. That is essentially what Lent is all about — a time for us to review those teachings and that structure, and how we are doing living it out.
Traditionally, the Ten Commandments can be divided into two groups — the first four address our relationship to God, and the final six speak to our relationships with one another. God makes it quite clear to us that He does not just wish to be part of our lives; he wishes to be at the foundation of our lives, the absolute focal point around which we do everything. Leading a God-centered life is at the core of a life of stewardship. Our bond and liaison with the Lord should be central to our entire lives; it is this correlation with God which should be the driving force in our Lenten efforts.
In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul preaches, “We proclaim Christ crucified.” This statement is necessary for us to truly understand our faith and our connection to Christ. A legend is told of a church that placed this statement on an arch leading into the church. However, over time, weeds began to grow over the arch so that the saying could only be seen as “We proclaim Christ.” Without the crucifixion of Christ and the salvation it brought to us, it is never enough just to be loyal to Christ. More time passed and the only thing that could be seen was “We proclaim.” Clearly without Christ and the Cross, simply “proclaiming” is not adequate. It becomes empty words. Finally, all was blotted out by the weeds except for “We.” Is that where we are? Is that where our church is? We must be more than a social gathering place. Lent is not about us; it is about Christ crucified.
Our Gospel from John relates Jesus driving the money changers and others from the Temple. This was not a sudden fit of anger on the Lord’s part. Note how He made a whip of cords, something which required time. He had carefully thought out what He was going to do. In John’s Gospel, St. John first speaks of Jesus’ conversion of water to wine. This is an important, although subtle, beginning. Jesus first converts, then He cleanses. This is the same process through which each of us must go; first we must seek conversion, then we seek cleansing. That, too, is perhaps the secret to our Lenten journeys.
John goes on to say that “Jesus would not trust himself to them (the admiring crowds) because he knew them all.” The Lord knows each of us; He understands each of us. Yet He loves us unconditionally. Jesus wants more than our admiration. Our goal during this Lent should be to acknowledge His love; accept His trust; but make an effort within ourselves to earn and deserve that trust. It is ours either way. That is the joy of God’s love; we receive it whether we deserve it or not.