Sunday Sermon for March 4, 2018, the Third Sunday of Lent, Year B

Readings: Ex 20:1-17; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

In the second reading St. Paul tells us Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom. We see in the Gospel reading that when our Lord overturned the money changers’ tables and drove out the dealers and their animals, the Jews immediately ask Him what sign He can show that gives Him the authority to do such a thing. What is interesting is that the people who were turning the House of the Lord into a a marketplace, or worse, into a den of thieves, did not have to show a sign from God to demonstrate their right to be there.

We human beings are a difficult bunch! We seem to think that if no one says anything, then whatever we are doing must be okay. In the case of the money changers, since God did not zap them with a bolt of lightning, He must not mind that they are there. After all, the priests who had oversight of the Temple approved of the money changers doing business in the Temple, so therefore, God must be aproving of it as well.

When we look at the first reading we see that God knows His human creatures well. One notices immediately that the first three commandments, the three that deal with our relationship with God, are long and detailed in their explanation. The other seven, those governing our relationships with other people, are short and to the point. If we violate another human person, that individual is going to make quite a stink. Our actions against others will almost always have immediate consequences.

However, because God is not going to immediately manifest His displeasure every time we do something wrong, He spelled out for us how we should comport ourselves toward Him. Of course, even with His explicit teaching, we ignore it. Just look at our own society: the founding documents are all based on God and His Law. Today, we have decided God has no place in society. Even in our churches, Sunday mornings often look like a marketplace. Many Catholics go shopping on Sunday, violating the Sabbath and preventing others from keeping the Sabbath holy. We can justify just about anything, especially when it comes to failing to give the Lord what is His due.

If Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, then what is our problem? We have the crucifix front and center in the church and we have Jesus, the Incarnate Wisdom living in the tabernacle, so what are we seeking? St. Paul says for those who are called Jesus is the power of God and the Wisdom of God. Do we really believe this? In the Old Testament Moses points out how just is the Law given by God and that there is nothing else to which it can be compared. But even so, the people ignored God and frequently violated His Law. We have Jesus Himself and we ignore Him!

We all know the truth, but our hearts have become like a marketplace: busy and chaotic; we distract ourselves from that truth. If we can open our hearts to our Lord, then we can live the truth in love. It is certainly possible to live the truth simply because it is the truth; to do the right thing just because it is the right thing. But God wants us to do what is right because of our love for God and neighbor, not just because it is the proper thing to do. This can only be done if we embrace the truth in our hearts; the truth can be embraced in our hearts only if we have a relationship with the Lord Who is the Truth. He can drive out the distracting peddlers from our hearts.

God has called you to Himself; He has called you to be holy. This being the case, each one of us needs to stop and ask ourselves honestly, is Jesus really and truly the power and the wisdom of God in my life? Is Jesus really central in my life? Am I pursuing a relationship with Him in prayer or just going through the motions of being Catholic?

If the Lord is the center of our lives, if He is the power and the wisdom of God for us, then our lives will revolve around Him. If we simply know He is the wisdom and the power of God, then He will remain on the periphery of our lives and everything will revolve around our own self or whatever or whomever we have placed at the center of our lives.

God made us for Himself; we will only be fulfilled when God is the center of our lives. You are the temple of the Lord; do not allow that temple to become a marketplace or a den of thieves!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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