Preach Christ Crucified

3rd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

1 Ex 20:1-17, Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11, 1 Cor 1:22-25, Gospel: Jn 2:13-25

The readings today speak to us about our relationship with God. In the first reading from the book of Exodus teaches us to have a good relationship with God.

The First Commandment – God Alone!
God saves us! He saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and he saves us from slavery to sin. Therefore we should not have any other Gods before him! This commandment teaches us that it is not Money, or Power, or Technology that saves us, nor is it the Broncos, or Video Games – only God saves us. Therefore, God ought to be first in our lives.

What is getting in the way of our relationship with God? What are the false idols in our life that are distracting us from God?

The Second Commandment – Keep Holy God’s name
God is Holy, and so His name is Holy! How often would we use our Mother or Father’s name disrespectfully? How do we use the names of those whom we love? Do we use them to curse others? Or do we use them with love and tenderness? We have this commandment because our speech reflects the state of our hearts.

The Third Commandment - Keep Holy the Sabbath
Do we make time for God in our lives? The third commandment asks us to demonstrate love for God in our actions. When we come to Mass on Sunday, it reminds us that our friendship with God is important; more important than earning Money, or watching the Bronco’s or playing video games.

Two ways that my relationship with God can get sideways
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians talks about two different ways that people relate to God. The two ways are of the Jews and of the Greeks. The Jews are demanding a sign and the Greeks are demanding wisdom.

Demanding a Sign
For some of us our faith is based only on signs, it is conditional. We say to God that we will follow Him only if He proves himself to us. For example, Lord I will go to Mass every Sunday during Lent IF you find me a job! Or Lord, I will go to Mass every Sunday during Easter IF you help me win the Lottery. Our bargains with God aren’t so obvious; we are subtle but they are coming from the same spirit. The attitude behind our demands for a sign is that we do not live out the first commandment; we don’t realize that God saves us.

Don’t wear Spiritual Blinders
The Jews sought proof of God’s glory. They made the sign their god. They were like horses with blinders on – looking for the sign of Christ’s glory and failing to see the glory of His love. So are we spiritually when we demand signs from God as conditions for our relationship with Him. When we have blinders on we do not recognize when Christ comes to us in meekness and humility to show the strength of His love.

Seeking Wisdom
The Greeks sought wisdom – this was their god. There is a false image of Christ in the world today that Jesus was simply a nice guy who taught us not to judge one another. What is false about this idea of Jesus is that it denies that Christ was also the Son of God and that he came to save us.

Get out of Guilt Free – No one gets hurt!
We like to hear “Judge not lest yea be judged!” because we get a “Get out of Guilt Free” Card. If we don’t judge one another then we don’t have sin and we’re all ok. This is why the crucifixion is foolishness to the Greeks – they are in denial that they need saving. They deny that sin exists and so the crucifixion is a waste. How many of us fall into this trap?

Stumbling Block or Foolishness?
The stumbling block for the Jews is that Christ Crucified is not the sign that they are looking for. For the Greeks it is that the death on the cross is meaningless. If there is no such thing as sin, then there is no need for sacrifice, and this dying on the cross makes no sense.

We teach Christ and Christ Crucified.
The truth of Christ’s revelation is that we were separated from God. We had lost the ability to restart our friendship with Him. Christ came to teach us how to do this, and He teaches most clearly about the Fathers love when he embraces His Cross and chooses the worst, most humiliating death possible to say to us – God loves you THIS MUCH!


Gods Love has No Limits – Our Response = Thank You
This is the power of God’s love – it has no limits, no bounds, and it leads us into the most beautiful and intense relationship with Him that we could ever imagine. When we are able to realize His love then we are compelled to respond – “Thank you for your Love Lord”.

Going to the Temple - Thank you Notes
If a friend of mine does something nice for me, helps me out, I might tell them thank you, or send them a little note, a text or an email thanking them for their help. This is how we express thanksgiving in our relationships.

If my friend really goes out of their way in helping me, I feel in their debt, and I might want to give them a gift, take them to a nice dinner as a way of saying thank you. This is why the Jews went to the temple – to say Thank You to God.

Christ is upset in the Temple.
In the Gospel today Jesus gets angry. Jesus is angry because he goes to the Temple to say thank you and he discovers that the Money Changers and Merchants have gotten in the way of people being able to say thank you to God. Instead of the Temple being a place of prayer and thanksgiving, it has become a market place. He noticed that the Merchants and Money Changers had changed the temple from a house of prayer into a place of business. Think of it this way – how would we feel if we had commercials during Mass – for example, A reading from the book of Exodus brought to you by Dewy Cheatum and Howe – Attorneys for the oppressed.

Jesus makes space for Thanksgiving
Jesus drives out the Merchants and Money Changers in order to create a space where we can take the time to take to say thank you to God. Lent is the time when Jesus is driving out the merchant mentality from our lives, so we can say thank you to God.

Almsgiving – The Lenten way of saying thank you.
During Lent the Church invites us to the spiritual practices of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Almsgiving is the spiritual practice of saying thank you to God. It gives us three different fruits.

1. Almsgiving fights against selfishness and the thought that we are the master of our own destiny.
2. Almsgiving teaches us that all that we have is a gift from God.
3. When we give alms, we imitate Christ in his desire to give us everything.

Selfishness leads to hoarding
As Americans we are often tempted to think that we have done everything by ourselves. This attitude pervades our entire society, and as Christians living here it is difficult for us not to be seduced by this mentality. When we look at ourselves as the masters of our own destiny we think that all of our blessings is the result of our work. We think that others can live this way if they work just as hard as well. We think we possess everything but in the end our possessions possess us.

Almsgiving leads to abundance of grace
Almsgiving teaches us that all that we are and all that we have is a gift from God. God gives us this gift so that we can share it with others. If we develop the habit of Almsgiving this Lent then we will be busy giving away the gifts that God has given us. When we give away God’s gifts He gives us more gifts to give.

We are created with a need to Give – So give Alms
Genesis says that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and so we have a natural need to give. As Christians, this need is even greater, because of our spiritual desire to imitate Christ who gave all so that all could come into His Father’s kingdom. This Lent the Church invites us to a better relationship with God, so consider what you are giving, and then consider increasing it so we can grow in our relationship with God. For some of us we are giving nothing – For us it is an invitation to start, to change our thinking. For others we are giving generously, and for us Christ invites us deeper into the mystery of His Love.

Profess in your actions what you believe in your Heart
The last time we visited together we spoke about the quick road from Temptation to Sin, at the end of that road was action, we either acted to choose God or to choose Sin. With Almsgiving we have the opportunity to choose God in a positive way; To professes with our actions what we believe in our Hearts.

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis said that we are to preach always using words only when necessary. When we give alms we are silently preaching about the love that God has shown US.

Almsgiving is preaching Christ Crucified – Thanksgiving
St. Paul says that we are to proclaim Christ Crucified. When we give alms we are imitate Christ by saying to the Father


Thank you for your Love, and the gift of sharing your love with those who are in greater need than I.


Repent and Believe in the Gospel

1st Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

1 Gn 9:8-15, Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 1 Pt 3:18-22, Gospel: Mk 1:12-15

What would Jesus Drive?
In the Gospel today we learn the Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert where he remained for forty days, tempted by Satan. When I read this verse, I was struck with a profound thought that led me to some intense scripture study. The Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert? [[PAUSE]] What kind of car did they drive?

After hours of searching the scriptures, I finally found the answer to this life-altering question - What would Jesus Drive? [[PAUSE]] A Honda Accord – John 12:49 – Jesus says “I do not speak of my own accord…” Well, I knew that had to be true because the Apostles followed his example as Acts 5:12 demonstrates “all the Apostles were in one accord…” as well.

Now, I am sure that the car aficionados here with us today are brighter than I am, because later I learned that the Honda Accord was not invented until 1976, so I have to go and rethink my understanding of Sacred Scripture.

Jesus is tempted in the Desert – This Lent we ought to arm ourselves to understand the dynamics of temptation.
Let’s take a second run at this. Why did the Holy Spirit drive Christ out into the desert? – So that Christ could be tempted by the Devil. Christ is fully God, but He is also fully man, and as a man He was tempted like the rest of us.

What is the nature of Temptation?
Because it is early in Lent it is good for us to reflect on the nature of temptation so that we can learn to imitate Christ when confronted by temptation to sin.

Pope St. Gregory the Great – The path between Temptation and Sin
Temptation is the tool that Satan uses to lure us away from God. St. Gregory the Great taught about the path from temptation to sin. Gregory taught that there are three waypoints on the journey from temptation to sin. The waypoints are:

· We hear a suggestion (from the Devil)
· We think about the suggestion
· We act on the suggestion

The Temptation of Ice Cream.
If I gave up Ice Cream for Lent, then after dinner I might be thinking about desert and the suggestion might come to me that Ice Cream would be an excellent desert. The thought enters my mind, and I begin to think. My stomach hears what my mind was thinking and says – yes, and makes some yummy grumbling noises. My mind begins to fantasize about how sweet and choclatey and smooth and creamy that ice cream would be sitting in a big bowl while I eat it. I begin to see how good Ice Cream is until I sit down with the mega-jumbo bucket of ice cream and start shoveling it in. I have fallen to the temptation to eat Ice cream and before I know it I have eaten five pounds of the stuff.

Temptation to sin
For most of us temptation to Ice Cream is not the problem, it is the temptation to something else, Pornography, abuse of Alcohol or Drugs, Stealing, Violence. I use Ice Cream as an example, but we can all see that we follow the same through process with whatever our temptation to sin is.

4 Defenses against sin.
Knowing the steps from temptation to sin can help us to recognize where we are along that path and to avoid the sin that leads us away from God. Taking St. Gregory’s waypoints we can now think about some defenses that might be useful this Lent.

Defense 1 - Avoid the suggestion
For some sins, yes, or at least we can reduce the amount of suggestion that we suffer from. First, we can pray and ask for the grace and strength to avoid the suggestion. Some sins are more easily triggered by sight. Pornography, for example. If we know that we are tempted by pornography, then get rid of the things in our lives that bring that suggestion to us, our computers, or books or movies or magazines. If we aren’t exposed to them, then they are less likely to tempt us.

Defense 2 - Thinking about the greater good
When we are confronted with a suggestion, we begin to think about it because we need to make a choice. Most suggestions from the Devil try to make us choose between two lesser goods without acknowledging that there is a greater good that we should see clearly. This is part of the reason why Lent is a season of penance. Lent is penitential to help us to see the big picture – that God loves us and that God wants the best for us. Often times the devil wants us to choose between a lesser good and nothing. This was the case with Eve in the Garden of Eden – “Eve” he said “do you want the knowledge of Good and Evil or do you want to be ignorant?” Eve failed to think about the consequence of eating the fruit. She didn’t realize that she would lose her relationship with God which was far better than the knowledge of good and evil. Eve failed to see the big picture; she chose the lesser good and so fell into sin.

The temptation of Alcohol
If my temptation is the abuse of alcohol and when I drink I drink myself into a stupor then I may be avoiding some pain or difficulty. The temptation presents itself to me in the form of – “Do you want to feel good or not”. Rather than “Do you want to be free of this pain (seek Christ’s healing) or suffer from the effects of Alcoholism – heart disease, sirosis of the liver”? When we face Temptation we often miss the big picture. Let us not be fooled!

Defense – 3 – Act – choose the greater good.
The third waypoint that St. Gregory spoke of is that of what we choose to do, how we choose to act. Temptation turns into sin based on what we choose to do. It is in acting that we sin, or avoid sin. For most of us, when we only consider the two choices that the devil tempts us with, we choose the better of the two. It is an illusion; he distracts us from the bigger picture

This Lent is an opportunity for us to choose the greater good, and to act in a way to free us from our sin. St. Peter reminds us in the second reading that our Baptism was not to “clean the dirt from our body”, but that it is “an appeal to God for a clear conscience”. This means that God gives us the grace in our Baptism to see the big picture and to act in a way that leads us into the embrace of God’s love.

Defense 4 - Trapped on the path from Temptation to Sin?
Many of us here today are trapped on the path from Temptation to Sin. All of our defenses have failed, and we find ourselves mired in sin and stuck. Fortunately, there is a defense even when we are trapped in sin – forgiveness. If we are trapped and we want to escape then it is easy, ask for God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation.

The Light is on for you – A new way
The Church is here to help us on our journey this Lent by offering us the sacrament of reconciliation. This is where we experience the healing forgiveness of God’s love at work in our lives. This Lent the Church has a special program to help us to deal with Temptation. It is called “The Light is on for You”. This Wednesday, you can go to any Catholic Church in the Archdiocese from 4:30 to 7:00 PM and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we go to confession we receive grace from Christ, healing for the wounds that we have suffered while trapped on the path from Temptation to Sin and grace to choose a new way in our lives, to grow in holiness.

Jesus did not fall for either lesser good
Jesus was tempted in the desert, but he never fell into the Devil’s trap. He always had the big picture of God’s love for us in mind and so he was able to act in a way that was consistent with God’s will. He did not fall for the two lesser choices, but rather chose to take the third option – he chose the Kingdom of God. He chose to see the love that God has for us, and then to live out that love in His life and ministry.

After the desert we are free to do the work of God
When Christ finished his time of temptation in the desert he left there and began his mission, to proclaim the Good News of God. He went to Galilee and proclaimed “that the kingdom of God is at hand”.

The ministry of Jesus was to tell us about the third choice that the Devil does not want us to see. In order to see it, we need to change how we act, this is the meaning of the word “Repent” – to change our ways, to choose to act in a new way. Don’t take the choices that Satan offers you when he suggests something to you, choose the kingdom of God, that is what it means to believe in the Gospel.