March 7, 2021 – Third Sunday of Lent
Fr. Manoling Thomas, CSsR
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/030721-YearB.cfm)
Today’s Gospel is about Jesus cleansing the Temple of vendors, an incident mentioned by all the four Gospel writers: Matthew [21:12-13], Mark [11:15-19], Luke [19:45-48], and John [2:13-25]. John however situates it right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
The 1st Reading gives us the “Decalogue” or popularly called “The Ten Commandments”. The 3rd Commandment reads: “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.” [Ex. 20:8]. Are the 1st Reading and the Gospel related?
The “Sabbath” is the “Lord’s Day” and we are commanded “to keep it holy”! To keep it holy means to set it apart and to consecrate that day and time exclusively for God! Ideally, we are to spend the Lord’s Day, differently from the way we spend the other six days of the week! Keeping the Lord’s Day, doesn’t only mean abstaining from hard work but also actively participating in the worship of the Lord! Keeping the Lord’s Day also entails sacrificing part of our time for the Lord, by doing nothing, but resting! When the members of the family or the community observe this day of rest for the Lord, the family, and the community usually benefit physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially! The family by spending time together can strengthen their relationships and their bonding with each other! So too with the community! Keeping the Lord’s Day, gives us the time to re-energize, and to refresh our body, mind, and spirit; after working for the past six days! When we take a rest on the Lord’s Day, we follow God’s example, Who rested on the 7th day after His work of creation! “And on the seventh day, God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.”[Genesis 2:2]
How is this commandment related to Jesus’ violent behaviour in today’s Gospel? When Jesus went up to Jerusalem, he discovered that people were “selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables… ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house, a market-place!’”[Jn. 2:14-16]. Why that strong reaction?
Jesus wanted to reclaim the Temple as a sacred place for God. Jesus insisted on observing a boundary between the sacred and the secular! Jesus is not against business trading or with people trying to have a decent livelihood! Those animals being sold there were needed for the prescribed temple sacrifice. The money-changers were needed to change Roman denarii and Attic drachmas into acceptable coins for the offerings. Jesus drove the sellers out because they not only crossed, but also encroached on the “sacred space of God” because of greed for money, profit, and selfish convenience! Jesus was angered by their turning his Father’s house into a market-place, into a commercial center! The boundary between the sacred and the secular was violated!
As God’s people, we need a place for worship, a quiet place where we can have a quiet conversation with our Father in heaven; or take refuge even for a little while, to escape the noise and the rush in a world busy with endless activities and commerce!
Just as we set aside a day exclusively for the Lord, so too must we set aside a special, decent, quiet, clean, and beautiful enough place worthy of God! Out of respect for that sacred place of God, we must observe proper decorum especially in the way we behave and dress! Remember, that when we are in church, to participate in the Eucharist, we are not attending a wild a party; or going for an excursion on a beach!
Seeing Jesus’ reaction, his disciples “remembered that it was written: ‘zeal for your house will consume me.’” [Jn. 2: 17]. Jesus burned with zeal to keep and to reclaim his Father’s house as God’s sacred place!
The Lord needs a respectable place, where God can interact and bond with God’s daughters and sons especially on the Lord’s Sabbath! How about you? Do you also have that need? Do you have the same burning zeal as Jesus had? How conscientiously are you in looking after God’s sacred place, in remembering, and in keeping holy the Lord’s Day? Do you really believe that: “The Lord needs a place, and the Lord needs a day; or rather we do, because we need the Lord”?