3rd Sunday of Lent: 07 March 2021
|(Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple ca. 1570)|
Please click here to listen to my audio reflections
I. Jesus takes the initiative
As Lent progresses, the readings that we have on this third Sunday of Lent invite us to move beyond our usual thinking. The Gospel says: "He [Jesus] 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" (John 2:15). Probably it might shock us to see Jesus in a hasty action, a bit in rage, angry at the people, full of emotions who were doing merchandise in the courtyard of the temple. In place of healing ministry, Jesus is busy with the cleansing ministry, that too a bit violent way - drove out animals, scattered the money of the moneychangers, flipped tables. What a sight that must have been in the temple square! Didn't he have other ways of chasing those people from the temple area? Why Jesus was so much annoyed, unhappy at the way things were going on there? By challenging the economic apparatus in that time and place, Jesus redirects us to avoid the distractions of earthly rewards and to instead focus on our relationship with Him.
One of the prominent aspects that comes to the fore during the Lenten season is the contemplation of Jesus' humanity. Whether it is the way of the Cross or other devotions that we take up during Lent, all are pointing towards one particular aspect of Jesus that is he is truly human. However, Jesus manifested his immense divinity either when he was transfigured which we contemplated last Sunday or the way he embraced the Cross. Only a person who is chosen by God could do that with such agility and ease. Perhaps the way Jesus looks at the things in the temple and the way takes a decision to clean the temple by himself shows us that he had a purpose in whatever things he did. It might appear to us that chasing the money launderers from the temple was a symbolic gesture and still we can draw a number of reflections from it. Basically, Jesus does not see a reason to complain about it to the temple authorities. In fact, they seem to be part of the profit-making group. Jesus did not belong to the group of temple priests either. But as an ordinary faithful or worshipper, Jesus thought that it was his duty to fix the wrongdoings.
In a world when we wait with the idea that others should do it, why not I ask myself what stops me from taking initiative in my family, community or parish? Why not I take up the leadership role to do those things which might bring a lot of good in our society or in the Chruch? What initiative I would be able to take up today to rectify the things that I see are unjust or unethical?
II. In Christ God's wisdom is revealed
Certain moments in life can bring in you unimaginable changes and good. St Paul being a well-learned pharisee knew his Jewish religion very well before he could meet Christ. His sudden, as well as radical shift and embrace of Jesus as his Messiah, sees a new vision in his life. Paul realizes and learns quickly that Christ is the unique means of salvation. He says “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25). Paul respects the Law of Sinai as a holy, just and good (Rom 7:14) guide to human conduct. His rhetoric has a profound truth. It is not our intellectual abilities that can save us but God's power and His grace. In today's context, there is no shortage of earthly distractions to come to the realization of God's enduring presence in our lives and in the world. The Good News of Jesus Christ still sounds foolish to many. Our society worships power, influence, and wealth. Jesus came as a humble, poor servant, and he offers his kingdom to those who have faith, not to those who do all kinds of good deeds to try to earn his gifts. This looks foolish to the world, but Christ is our power, the only way we can be saved. Knowing Christ personally is the greatest wisdom anyone could have.
The message of Christ's death for sins sounds foolish to those who don't believe. Death seems to be the end of the road, the ultimate weakness. But Jesus did not stay dead. His resurrection demonstrated his power even over death. And he will save us from eternal death and give us everlasting life if we trust him as Saviour and Lord. This sounds so simple that many people won't accept it. They try other ways to obtain eternal life like being good, being wise, etc. But all their attempts will not work. The "foolish" people who simply accept Christ's offer are actually the wisest of all because they alone will live eternally with God. Do you see in Paul's rhetoric a profound truth? What is that he is offering you?
III. The world is our Monastery
The first reading Exodus 20:1-17 gives us a number of do's and don'ts in the form of commandments. These ethical and moral norms give a framework to live in a society harmoniously. Unethical or immoral behaviour can destroy this world. For the better preservation of humanity and future growth of this world, everyone must contribute positively according to the precepts of the Lord. In other words, each human person is invited to be part of God's plan and not our plans for God or to His creation. A certain order, decorum and discipline are must so that all could live in peaceful coexistence. By living such a life that is pleasing to God, we will attain eternity, a place in God's reign.
All the more, our salvation begins here and now. And that salvation is possible only in this world. Therefore, this world is our monastery. We need not run into a monastery and enclose ourselves in seclusion in order to meet God. Jesus himself never entered a monastery to preach and live the salvation. For him, the world was a monastery where he preached and lived salvation. Being in the world we must cultivate a sense of wonder at God's creation, a sense of praise and reverence to God as well as a desire to be with God. Lent provides us with the opportunity to challenge the systems and intentions which need thorough cleansing. What injustices will I confront and challenge in this Lenten season? And how will I do it? Can I join Christ's hands in building up our humanity far more earthly rewards that perpetuate systems of oppression?
Lord Jesus, help me to keep in mind that my mission is more about others and less about me. Grant me the understanding that true empathy brings. Before attempting to judge others, allow me to recall my own failings. Free me from the desire to serve my own ego. Lord as you invite me to follow in your footsteps, help me to share your outrage at injustice in the world. Give me the courage to speak out and take action when I see corruption, injustice and exploitation meted on people. We make this prayer in Jesus' name Amen.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
06 March 2021