Fr Vincent's reflections on the 3rd Sunday of Lent 2021

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus “cleanses” the Temple by driving out the money changers and merchants.  We know the story very well.  Applying this action of Jesus to ourselves can be challenging because we need Jesus to help us cleanse our hearts and minds so that we can make our soul a fitting “temple” in which God can dwell.

Watch the video: Fr Vincent's reflections on the 3rd Sunday of Lent 2021

Read the script:

                                                               Third Sunday of Lent                        (Mar. 7, 2021)

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.      R/.  Amen.

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.             R/.  And with your spirit.

On this Third Sunday of Lent, let us pray:

             O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,

             who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

             have shown us a remedy for sin,

             look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

             that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

             may always be lifted up by your mercy.

             Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

             who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

             God, for ever and ever.                        R/.  Amen.

 

Please pause this video and retrieve your Bible so you can follow along.

The Gospel today is John 2:13-25.

 

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John

      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.

 

The Gospel of the Lord.                                     R/.  Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

On this Third Sunday of Lent, the Gospel recounts Jesus “cleansing” the Temple in Jerusalem by driving out the merchants and money changers.  We are so used to the story that it seems to be expected behavior from Jesus, and that those he attacked deserved to be attacked.  However, we need a bit of historical context to help us, some 2000 years later, understand why Jesus’ behavior was really radical compared to what was common-place at the time.

Every “good” Jew was expected to come to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.  Part of what they were required to do was offer a live sacrifice for their sins, ideally a lamb, but if that was not possible, some birds or other lesser animals were allowed.  Not every Jew could come every year, but they came as often as life would allow.

Now, the trip, usually on foot, could take weeks or longer.  So it was hard for most of these people to travel with a living sacrifice in tow.  The merchants of Jerusalem understood this, so they had animals available to sell the pilgrims when they arrived.  However, these merchants only accepted the local currency, so money changers were necessary for people coming from other countries or provinces.  Inn keepers would not let pilgrims bring animals into their rooms, so it was easier for them to be at the Temple – reducing the amount of time the pilgrim had to deal with the actual sacrifice.

All of this money changing and selling of live sacrifices was done under a covering as far away from the actual Temple as possible, but still on the Temple Mount.  This was a custom several hundred years old and considered common place to everyone in Jerusalem and to Jewish pilgrims.  So Jesus, getting angry about it, was a real surprise to everyone around him, even his own disciples.  This is why the story stands out in the Gospel as something truly unique, powerful, and worth remembering.

It would be like a priest today running around the church parking lot grabbing people’s cell phones and smashing them on the ground because he didn’t want people failing to pay absolute attention to God as soon as they arrived on the property.  What would the people think of a priest behaving this way?  That is what it looked like to the people watching Jesus in today’s Gospel.

So, what is the message for us today?  Don’t worry, I won’t smash your cell phone if you come to church!  But, it is about us considering our common, everyday, seemingly acceptable behavior, and whether or not it might get in the way of us giving due attention to God in our lives.  The cell phone is just an example, but how many people are so convinced this device is absolutely essential that they truly believe they cannot live without it?  To so many, it is an object that has become more important than God Himself!  Why else do we here and at most churches need to remind people to “silence” their electronic devices week after week, and people still forget to do so?  They are convinced they cannot exist without the phone on!!

What else in our lives takes up so much “necessary” attention that it interferes with us giving attention to God?  This will be different for each of us, so I won’t bother with examples that might side-track you from your own possible list.  But this is what we are called to do this weekend:  an examination of conscience, an examination of habits and behavior that tears us away from God and our spiritual lives and practices.  If Lent will bring us back into a good and solid relationship with God, then we must allow Jesus to “cleanse” our heart of mind as He did the Temple of Jerusalem.  This might mean He will challenge us to get rid of some common-place activities which we think normal and acceptable.  The people in Jerusalem were not so receptive to Jesus.  I hope we will be more open and ready for his help!

Recall the words of our Opening Prayer, again, offering us the direction for personal thoughts and prayers:

             O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,

             who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

             have shown us a remedy for sin,

             look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

             that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

             may always be lifted up by your mercy.

God bless!

 

Final Blessing:

             The Lord be with you.                          R/.  And with your spirit.

             Bow down for the blessing.

                   Direct, O Lord, we pray, the hearts of your faithful,

                   and in your kindness grant your servants this grace:

                   that, abiding in the love of you and their neighbor,

                   they may fulfill the whole of your commands.

                   Through Christ our Lord.               R/.  Amen.

 

             And may the blessing of almighty God,

             the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

             come down on you and remain with you for ever.                R/.  Amen.