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Homily: 3rd Sunday of Lent

The grace of this season of Lent to help us to clean out the temples of our lives

3rd Sunday of Lent - Year B

Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Cor. 1:22-25; John 2:13-25

Psychologists tell us that, apart from the death of a loved one, perhaps the most traumatic experience a person can have is that of moving from one home to another. Those who have gone through it all can attest to the truth contained in these words. One of the benefits derived from the exercise, however, is that we get rid of all the junk we have accumulated since our last move. It could be argued that people’s dread of moving is directly proportionate to the amount of stuff they have gathered.

In today’s gospel we find Jesus clearing all the accumulated junk out of the Temple. What is happening here is not merely the removal of unwanted items by this symbolic act but Jesus is calling all the peoples of the earth, all of us, to worship God “in spirit and in truth.” True worshippers, he will tell us later in the gospel, are those who worship the Father in spirit and in truth. There is a sense in which it is true to say that many people today have forgotten how to worship, so that often our liturgical acts become simply social gatherings. To ‘worship’ means to acknowledge the transcendence of God as our creator and to respond appropriately. Rather than just being a relic of religion, worship should be an integral part of our lives as we adore God. In order to worship in spirit and in truth, we must prepare our hearts and minds by being faithful to the covenant relationship (keeping the commandments) and seeking the wisdom of God, which is the wisdom of the cross.

The first reading from the Book of Exodus lists the Ten Commandments. At first glance, these Commandments sound like a list of rules. But when you look at the actual words, you see that they are personal and relational. Each begins or includes the word “you.”  They all concern the relationship between us and God or our relationship with each other. The first three Commandments call on us to let God be the only God in our life, to revere and respect everything that is connected with Him: His person, His name, His Sundays. The fourth Commandment calls on us to respect our family relationships, especially our parents. The fifth through eighth Commandments call on us to respect the community of which we are a part by respecting property, truth-telling, marriage, as well as respecting the sacred power of sexuality. And the last two Commandments call on us to look beneath our behavior, to look at that secret inner world of our desires and yearnings to see if the Gospel shapes them. These commandments have a timeless validity, but they must be understood in the light of Christ’s teaching. They challenge us to be better people.

In the ‘temple’ of our lives are ‘money changers’ we harbor -- things like anger, pride, addictions, greed, selfishness, prejudice, and many other vices. All these debase our relationships with God and with one another. In the ‘temple’ of our lives they are imperfections that grow into sins, small omissions that become major areas of neglect, personal preoccupations that ripen into indifference to others. We have to let Jesus cleanse us, as he cleansed the temple, by leaving our sins behind and getting rid of any needless clutter.

Whatever the case, we can never get enough cleansing. Rubble always accumulates; every life needs regular spring-cleaning or else we can end up like people who don’t even notice the clutter around them anymore.  That is why we have the grace of this season of Lent to help us to clean out the temples of our lives and make them a place where Christ is at home and not a stranger. Lent is a time to be dramatic and decisive, to drive out the spiritual debris in the temple of our lives and make room for Christ. ###

 

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