FIRST READING Exodus 20:1-17
In those days, God delivered all these commandments: “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished the one who takes his name in vain. “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.”
SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
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. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
GOSPEL John 2:13-25
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
We are temples of the Holy Spirit. Christ cleanses the physical temple in Jerusalem of all that is not leading people to God. We ourselves must be cleansed of all that does not lead us to God.
The first reading today is from the Book of Exodus and gives us the commandments of the Lord. Knowing the commandments of the Lord and striving to live in our lives these commandments is one of the way of being cleansed for God. We cannot achieve our own salvation but we can strive to cooperate with what God is asking of us and has asked of His People throughout the ages. The Book of Exodus makes it clear that God wants His People for Himself and is jealous in His love for us. This is a good jealousy that leads us to salvation and assures us that God is always there striving to love us and draw us to Himself.
Lent is a wonderful time to reflect on our own responses to God’s love. First we can always ask ourselves: Do I really believe that God loves me, just as I am right now? Do I believe that God is my ally in seeking to cleanse my life of all that impedes my relationship with God? Do I really trust the love of this God, who never wants to destroy me but who always wants me to be for Him?
The second reading is from the First Letter to the Corinthians. Saint Paul is clear that he proclaims Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. We can imagine how odd it must have sounded to people of the time of Saint Paul to say that a Savior had actually come and was crucified—but that the Crucified One was and is God! Even today people find it very difficult to believe that Jesus is Lord and God. We can think of a Eastern song that proclaims: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! That is the heart of our Christian proclamation. We must believe that Jesus is fully human and fully God, that Jesus lived among us, that Jesus was crucified for us—and yes, Jesus rose from the dead for us.
Over and over we return to the incredible Good News: Christ rose from the dead! Christ is risen! He died for us, but He rose for us as well, to show us that there is another life and that there is life after death and that we are all invited to share in this Divine Life.
Today’s section of the Gospel of Saint John reflects on the cleansing of the temple and shows us Jesus telling those who doubt Him: “Destroy this temple and I shall raise it up in three days.” Those around Him did not understand until after the Resurrection. Jesus spoke to His followers and to others with clarity, even when they could not yet understand what He was saying.
Do we listen to the Lord? Can we believe His words? Lent prepares us to celebrate the death and resurrection of the Lord—when we have faith. Let us walk in the way of the Lord.
Your brother in the Lord
Thank you, Abbot Philip.
Wonderfully tied together!