3rd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B
Ex 20:1-17, Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11, 1 Cor 1:22-25, Jn 2:13-25
[[This homily requires some prop’s and setup. Walk to the back of the Church and put on a Police Badge on my Stole under my dalmatic. Then begin with the following announcement.]]
My new job!
I have some exciting news! This week the Father Dan gave me a new assignment – To the Church Offender Patrol – or COP. My new job is to write tickets to those folks who show up late for mass. (Walk up behind a parishioner, and place your hand on their shoulder). Sir (or Ma’am) – I notice that you were 27 seconds late for the entrance procession. Would you please step out of the pew? (Don’t forget to genuflect)…
Well, fortunately for the Church, for you and for me, this is all just silly. There is no such thing as the Church Offender Patrol. This little stunt is here to help us to begin to think about the Law, especially God’s Law.
“I have seen the light!”
Some of us here today have been driving down the highway when all of a sudden we have “Seen the Light” – that is the flashing red and blue lights in our rear view mirror because we are driving a little too fast or have done something else wrong. When we “see the lights” does our heart sink down into our chests, as that feeling of being “busted” spreads over us?
Experience of Human Law colors our understanding of God’s Law
I mention this up because the way we look at the law affects how we look at God’s Law. If we have a dim view of human law, then what is our view of God’s Law, and of God? Is the Ten Commandments just God’s way of being able to watch over us and “bust” us when we are caught breaking them?
Do we think that God is like a Speed Trap?
If you take a moment to speak with people about their image of God the Father, often times you will hear them describe God as the man in the sky with a long flowing beard who spends eternity looking down on us waiting for us to mess up so that he can take pleasure in punishing us. I think that for some of us, God is like a like a policeman hiding out with a speed gun trying to catch us speeding. This kind of theology is just as silly as a Deacon with a ticket book.
How then, should we look at the Law of God?
Certainly the readings in today’s mass speak of God’s law and Christ’s anger. The passage that we heard today from the book of Exodus is referred to as the “giving of the Law”. It is interesting to note that in this passage of Scripture Moses uses more than half of the words to describe the first three commandments, and then the last section to discuss the last 7 commandments. The reason for this is that the first three commandments help us to get our relationship with God in the right perspective. If our relationship with God is in the right perspective then the other seven commandments flow from that relationship, and keeping the law becomes easier, more straightforward.
I bring up this idea so that we can take a moment and think about how we think about God, and our relationship with Him. At the heart of Jesus’ mission here on earth was to reveal the love of His Father to us. If we have been living out life with the idea that God is a traffic cop, then now is the time for us to repent – to change our minds and take a new path. The reason why God gave His law to Moses on Sinai, and the reason why he sent His Son to us was so that we could enter into a relationship of love with God.
What is our relationship with God like today?
In the Gospel today Jesus enters into the Temple in Jerusalem and cleans it out. He makes a whip out of cord and drives out the moneychangers and the animal sellers. Jesus drives out those who are changing the temple from a house of prayer into a den of thieves. Jesus cleanses the temple to make room for something that is missing in the hubbub Jesus is trying to make room for people to worship God.
As we reflect over our Lenten journey thus far, are we succeeding in making room for God in our lives, or are we allowing the moneychangers and the animal sellers to overwhelm us so that we are unable to worship. Are we allowing sin to enslave us so that we are unable to be free so that we might hear the Gospel?
Our Bodies are the temples that need cleansing
There is another temple that Christ desires to enter and to cleanse this Lent Brothers and Sisters. That is our souls. St. Paul says that when we are baptized our souls become “temples of the Holy Spirit” and God comes to dwell with us. Christ is driving out the moneychangers because they are a distraction to the real purpose of the temple. What distractions does Christ need to drive out of our temples this week?
What are the distractions that need to be driven out?
This really takes us back to the first three commandments of the Law of God. Do we have other Gods besides God? Television, Computers, Sports, Work, Alchohol, Drugs? Do we keep the Lord’s name holy, like we would the name of a cherished loved one, or do we use his name habitually to curse and to profane? Do we keep the Lord’s day holy? Do we rest on the Sabbath? Or do we allow our cultural work-aholicism to infect this day too?
This brings us to the other experience of the law that we might have. For some of those gathered here today have had the experience of waking up in the middle of the night to hear some disturbance going on in the street outside our houses. What do we do? Call 911. Three or four minutes later the law shows up to help us. The key experience that we have here is the recognition that we need help.
How do we dial 911 for God?
The Church has its own version of 911 for the soul. It is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For those of us who are thinking that it has been a long time since I received the sacrament of reconciliation that I forgotten how, I have the 30 second refresher on how to make a good confession.
· Sign of the Cross
· Forgive me Father for I have sined.
· It has been XX days / weeks / months / years / decades since my last confession.
· Here are the Sins that I have committed.
· Father will give you some advice, perhaps ask for some clarification and then ask you to make an act of contrition – which is a short prayer to God expressing your sorrow at sin and your desire and resolve to sin no more. It goes like this. “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.” (If you have forgotten your act of contrition, they are written down in the confessional.)
· Then you will receive absolution – which is the Holy Spirit cleansing of your soul from all sin.
· Lastly Father will give you a penance – which is medicine for your soul, to help you to get stay strong in your battle against sin.
We have confession here are St. Anthony’s Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. So one way that we can allow this Gospel to take root in our hearts is to make a commitment to attend Confession one of these nights this week.
The Law of the Lord can transform our lives
The Psalm today speaks of our encounter with the Law of God in a positive way. Listen anew to what the psalmist says “The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul; The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.” And again he says “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.”
I think that some times our experience with human law – which is imperfect and not entirely just that influences our response to God’s law. Jesus cleanses the temple in the Gospel today to make room for the God’s law to take root in our hearts and to grow because God’s law is a law that “is perfect, refreshing the soul”, a law that “is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple”. God’s law is “right, rejoicing the heart” and His law “is clear, enlightening the eye”.
The goal of our Lenten penance is to cleanse the temple of our souls from the corrupting influences that lead us away from God. We need to make room in our souls for God’s law, because it leads us to freedom from sin, freedom to truly love God, and to truly be loved by Him.