• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

3rd Sunday of Lent (B)

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up ...”

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 25(24):15-16 —“My eyes are always on the Lord, for He rescues my feet from the snare. Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and poor.”

First Reading: Ex 20:1-17 — “The law was given through Moses.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11 — “Lord, You have the words of everlasting life.”

Second Reading: 1 Cor 1:22-25 — “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to many, but to those who are called, the wisdom of God.”

Verse before the Gospel: Jn 3:16 — “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life.”

Gospel: Jn 2:13-25 — “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Communion Antiphon: Jn 4:13-14 — “For anyone who drinks it, says the Lord, the water I shall give will become in him a spring welling up to eternal life.”

Dorothy Stang was a Catholic girl from a Midwestern family. The entire family was very strong in their faith. So, it came as no surprise when Dorothy discerned that she was being called to religious life and became a School Sister of Notre Dame. As a side note, the sisters have a fairly large convent in Towson, not too far from where I lived when I was working in Maryland. Anyway, she eventually ended up working in the missions in Brazil. Over decades, she learned to live among the people and to serve their needs. When greedy business interests began destroying people’s homes and claiming their land, she became an important advocate and leader in their defense. She became a true prophetic witness for them. On February 12, 2005, she was murdered for her actions. And actually, when she was murdered, she was reading the Gospel to those who killed her. She knew the dangers. She feared for her life, but she did what she felt God was calling her to do. Sister Dorothy was a modern-day martyr for the faith.

Prophecy is a part of the Christian lifestyle. Thankfully, it doesn’t often lead to martyrdom, but there are ways that each of us can join in the prophetic ministry of Jesus.

First let me begin by saying that Jesus’ action in the Temple was prophetic. Making such a bold challenge to the religious establishment eventually led to His own martyrdom ... the Crucifixion. His action was prophetic because it challenged the way things were. The Temple was a place where, in the Hebrew tradition, priests made sacrifices meant to be pleasing to God. The people could join in those sacrifices by contributing animals to the Temple for sacrifice. Over the years, a convenience business – probably much appreciated by almost everyone ... of selling birds and other small animals ... grew up on the Temple grounds. That’s where the money changers come from in the Gospel today.

Jesus, like the prophets before Him, was outraged by the excessive emphasis on the externals as the path to salvation. He saw the inevitable injustice of the system ... the richer you were, the more worthy your sacrifices would seem. Eventually the very poor would be shut out completely. They could not afford the commerce of sacrifice. Jesus’ dramatic action is a message. God’s love is for EVERYONE! Any system that gets in the way of that is wrong. The encounter in the Temple is a reminder to each one of us to reconsider what we think is worthy in the eyes of the Lord. The simplest things might well be the most powerful. Jesus challenges us not to be swallowed up by the consumerism that characterizes our culture, but instead to invest our attention and energies in spiritual stock that does not fail.

Sister Dorothy was a prophet. Like Jesus, she challenged the establishment. Everyone knew that the way to make money in Brazil was and is to clear the forests and sell the timber. In 2021 ... sixteen years later ... it is still that way. Unfortunately, that ignores the needs of the poor, who are working to live off of the land and build community. Dorothy stood fearlessly for justice. Dorothy took the words of Jesus and the tradition of her Catholic faith to heart. We are to stand with the poor in their struggles for justice. Dorothy was tragically murdered. That is the ultimate witness for one’s faith … martyrdom.

Lent is our chance to open ourselves to the truth. Obviously, Lent comes before Easter. It is a time for each of us to get in line with the truth of our faith before we celebrate its deepest and most significant event … the Easter mystery ... the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We’re about halfway into Lent … how’s it going? Most of us started on Ash Wednesday with great intentions to perform some kind of Lenten practice. It might have been to give something up … fast and abstinence or perhaps it was to pray more or do something extra for those around us, for the Church, or for our own spiritual well-being. Maybe, right about now, we need to begin again. That’s okay. That’s why Lent is so long! Each of us is challenged to renew our Lenten commitment again and again as the season progresses.

As I reflected on the Gospel this week and read some of the commentaries and reflections associated with today’s Scripture Readings, I was struck by a Lenten meditation I read for today:

“If you remember just one thing from today’s Gospel, remember this: You are God’s temple, so take care of it. Just as Jesus cleared the Temple in Jerusalem of all corrupting influences, so too does He want to cleanse us. Just as He was zealous for His Father’s house, so too He is zealous for each one of us – for we are all temples of His Holy Spirit.”

After hearing today’s Gospel, each of us should be challenged to look at our lives. Maybe it’s time for a bit of spring house cleaning. We all need to reboot our computers or cell phones from time to time. Perhaps it’s time to refresh ourselves and to turn over a new leaf. In the ebb and flow of our lives, sometimes things get out of hand and something has to be done. In our own way, each of us has power to change the way things are.

And we can start with very small and practical steps. One way is to open ourselves to the news about the needs of the poor. Maybe we can take some time to find small ways to volunteer our time and talent or to devote ourselves to prayer for particular needs. There are hundreds of ways to make our daily lives align more carefully with our beliefs. Start small and build from there.

Each of us can pray for the courage to evangelize. There are many people out there in the world who are corrupting their own temples. It’s up to us to reach out to them – beginning with our own families and friends – helping them to get right with God so that they can experience the passion of His love and begin to partake in what they’ve been missing. Sister Dorothy Stang is just one example of an individual who lived her life doing just that.

Jesus Christ, the One who offered His life freely for each of us on the cross, gave us a way to share in His glorious life. Let’s consider that as we turn to the celebration of the Eucharist, the gift He gave us as part of the Paschal Mystery we will soon commemorate.

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