Third Sunday of Lent by Barbara Zeman
Oh Holy One … I come to you again, my center. Ground Me.
I come to confess my weariness. Hold me.
I come to seek your face. Smile on me.
I come to be made whole. Heal me.
I come to open my heart to You. Fill me.
I come to open my mind to You. Teach me.
I come to open my spirit to You. Breathe in to me.
I come to live and to die in You. Give me your peace.
Until today we have walked this Lenten journey quietly and slowly, looking to the cross from afar. On the First Sunday we touched on the cleansing waters of Baptism, on changing our hearts and on the Noahtic covenant. As I put out a challenge for each of us to spend 5 minutes a day realizing how we are God’s arms and legs and heart in this world, I wondered how often I could see God’s presence in my life in an hour, a day, a week.
Today, as the Third Sunday dawns those who are discerning Baptism, Communion and Confirmation for the first time on Holy Saturday have their first scrutiny. They join those of us who see God’s call, to deepen our trust, to search our hearts and to be reminded that God has brought us to this place… given us this life.
Each of the readings today speaks to the way of the world in contrast with the Way of God. Each also speaks of God’s unconditional Love for Human beings … an unrelenting Love … a patient Love that time and again, forgives, instructs and moves to help us see that we are all connected, that in our connection to one another God shows up within and without us.
God’s covenant with Moses foreshadows the New Covenant. "What is the Mosaic Covenant?" As laid out in the Bible, the Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant made between God and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. Here … God reminds the people of their obligation to obey the Divine law. This covenant set the nation of Israel apart from all other nations as God’s chosen ones and like the unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham, it was equally binding. However, the Mosaic Covenant differs significantly from other Covenants BECAUSE it is conditional. God’s promised blessings are directly related to Israel’s obedience to the Law … the Word written on the tablets of stone. If Israel is obedient, God will bless them, but if they disobey, if they sin, God will punish them. And, of course, as Paul Harvey puts it … we know the “rest of the story” but luckily for us … our disobedience is not the rest of the story. Christ IS the rest of the story and then some.
And, as Paul tells us in the second reading … the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God stronger than human strength. Isn’t that a nugget of truth?
The Mosaic Law reveals to the Jews the need for a role model … a sign … way to live God’s directive. These aren’t just ten words written in stone on some ancient mountain top. This is God’s long range map home. This is the very Law that Christ, in his wisdom, said He did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
And, as John’s Gospel unfolds Jesus reveals the New Covenant through his actions … his life. He challenges the false gods laid out in the temple before him. He rebukes those who, since the beginning of time choose to rely on their ego as they make temporary pleasure, greed and gain their god. Do we really wonder why Jesus paid no attention to them?
Jesus overturned the tables of the merchants and the moneychangers in the Temple at Jerusalem. To better understand the relevance of Jesus' action, let’s examine what went on in the temple. Worship in the temple included animal sacrifice, and merchants sold animals to worshipers. Moneychangers exchanged Roman coins, which bore the image of the Roman emperor, for temple coins needed to pay the temple tax.
This story of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem is in all four Gospels a mark that indicates to bible scholars that the event had historical significance. It is often understood to be among the events that led to Jesus' arrest and Crucifixion. Jesus was the Rebel of Rebels. His public displays gained him a reputation that challenged those in authority and delighted the marginalized. After clearing the Temple of the merchants and the moneychangers, John's Gospel tells us that the people asked for a sign of Jesus' authority to do this audacious act. Jesus responds by predicted his death and Resurrection. (His talk was crazy to those who didn’t have eyes to see or ears to hear.) The cross, once far off in the distance has suddenly come into sharp focus. It stands as a message of truth for us to sink into … on this third Sunday of Lent 2012.
If Jesus walked into the Roman Catholic Church today, would he cleanse the Temple again? Would his anger with bishops over their battle to be exempt from paying for contraception for women who work for Catholic universities and hospitals become apparent? Would he tear up the new Roman missal that states that he died for the many, not for all? Would he lament the global sexual abuse cover-up and the shabby treatment of many survivors by the hierarchy? Would he protest the shuttering of parishes and schools? Would he be outraged at the treatment of gays and lesbians? Would Jesus stand in solidarity with women priests and their supporters who have been excommunicated and harshly punished by the hierarchy? Would he challenge Fr. Ed Doughterty, the Superior of Maryknoll, for his cooperation with the Vatican in supporting the removal of Fr. Roy Bourgeois from the Order? Would Jesus call the people of God to rise up for all victims of injustice? It is time to cleanse the Temple again!
During the week ahead reread this Gospel of John and put yourself in the position of the authorities. Read it again from the perspective of Jesus disciples. And finally read it from Jesus perspective. As you reflect upon the different perspectives, I challenge us once again to notice what is in the depths of our hearts. What false gods are we harboring? How can we create a clean heart? In our prayers let us keep remembering that God loves you into being and that our bodies, like Jesus’, are temples of the Holy Spirit. Let this prayer deepen our relationship with the person of Christ.
When it comes to this community, let us explore ways to be there for those who come to us. Let us realize our commitment to BE church in a world which marginalizes each and every one of us. Then as we gather to experience anew the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus during Lent 2012 we will begin to see the significance of our covenant with God. And we will begin to see how that connection is within each encounter we have. Christ promises to be present with us when we gather for prayer. In the Eucharist let us realize that our gifts are the gifts of our very lives.
Proclaiming the Word of God is never as simple as it might seem. Proclaim your truth as people of deep faith in the Roman Catholic Church to yourself, this community and the world. As I have said before, my dears, if ever there was a time to be witness to Christ’s message of Love it is now. If ever there was a people able to proclaim the truth it is us. If ever there was a way to express the truth it is at this Eucharistic table as an inclusive Roman Catholic community that has worshiped together for 40 years through thick and thin … through times of deep rejection and derisiveness. Our lives proclaim the truth of faithfulness to our God and Church once again … with Dignity as the name that was chosen so aptly states.
We chose to live out our faith in this community because it is the truth of who we are … because here we are not hidden … right here … right now we are being challenged by the world to come to a new understanding of what it means to be church in the world and to see things in a new light and to include all who wish to be with us. Perhaps we can hold up our dark weary world with all its shortcomings … with all its exclusivity … poverty … injustice … war … homelessness … joblessness and sickness … even inappropriate, derisive slurs and envision it in a new light … a light of love and peace as the cross stands before us.
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