March 7, 2021 – Third Sunday of Lent
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/030721-YearB.cfm)
A friend who lives in the US, fell in love with a fellow Filipino. The reason why she fell in love was because the man was so sweet to her. She felt that he showed care and concern for her. Just like any other suitor, she would always receive a message from him greeting her every morning. The constant communication provided by the social media sites opened a great opportunity for the two of them to be connected with each other and be intimate despite the distance.
Things like these melt her heart and soon enough said her yes to him. Just after a year, she went home here in the Philippines to get marry with that man whom she thought will be her “forever.” Few months after their wedding, things became odd and strange for her. Her husband was actually secretive to her. And lo and behold, there was an occasion when she found out that her husband was in relationship with another woman. Later, she too found out that she was just used by that man to secure a green card for the United States. She too found out that her husband and his girlfriend planned it all along so that they will be able to migrate to US for a greener pasture for the two of them.
My friend was completely devastated when she knew this. She felt violated and indeed was deceived by the person whom she loved so much. She was so angry and helpless that every time she remembers it, it gives her so much pain and disgust.
A similar experience of deception and destructive attitude for personal gain has been told to us in today’s Gospel. The passage from the Gospel of John narrates to us how Jesus also felt the pain when the Temple of God was used by the merchants as a way to enrich themselves. The House of God was abused by these people for their personal gain, for their own profit at the expense of the poor and ordinary Jews.
Thus, Jesus was so angry upon witnessing this kind of attitude from the people. Jesus could not accept that the people focused on what they can gain materially in the name of Religion and in the name of God. More so, Jesus was disgusted when those people used that opportunity to exploit the poor by having an unfair and expensive prices for animals to be offered on the altar. The merchants made sure that the animals that shall be offered to the Temple must only come from them. Because of that monopoly in the market, they made the prices of the animals twice as expensive to its original price. What they did was neither for the Temple nor for God but simply to gain more profit for themselves.
What has been done was a violation to God’s covenant, to the relationship built on trust and love between Yahweh and His people. The Temple is a symbol of that relationship of the Hebrew people and God. The Temple was the image that God is with His people, faithful and loving. Yet, the people used this relationship also for the sake of personal gain and pleasure.
This reveals to us now how we can be cunning and deceiving also in our own relationships. There is a tendency in us to use other people for our personal gain and pleasure. We please others for the sake of gaining favors from them. We build connections from others in order to boast ourselves and advance our personal agenda which is very common in the political arena; not just in politics but even in religious and our personal relationships.
Consequently, we have been given with the ten commandments proclaimed in the first reading. The ten commandments which basically talked about our relationships with God and our neighbor present to us the proper and right attitude in relating to God and with one another. These commandments are not designed to limit us or to put mere restrictions in relating with another, but rather, making us freer and life giving as we build and develop relationship with God and with one another.
Therefore, the ten commandments are given to us so that we will be able to give life and celebrate life. This is essentially what the covenant of God is all about, giving life and celebrating life. A true relationship then is not about what we can profit from others, but about growing together and finding joy with one another.
This is the call for all of us then, on this Third Sunday of Lent – and that is to be true and authentic in our relationships with one another. The commandments provide us the way on how we can freely love God and the person next to us. And that our relationship is not about what we can gain or profit but rather what we can give and invest in our family, with your husband or wife, your children, friend, our community and God. Truly, it is in mutual giving that we also find our relationships more flourishing and fulfilling.
Now, I want to invite each of you to do something for this coming week as we continue to observe the Season of Lent. There are two invitations that you may do for those special people who could be your partner in life, children, friend or community.
- First, invest your time and presence. It means give enough time to be there for them, to listen to their concerns and problems. Let your presence be felt by them who have become afraid, lonely and ashamed.
- Second, say to thank you to those people who are special to you. Express your gratitude to them and to the relationship that you have with them. It also means that you are to recognize the gifts that they have and the things that they did to you.
Hopefully, these attitudes will make our relationships with God and with one another stronger and sincere and that we will relate not on the motivation on what we can profit and gain from others, but on how we can give life and meaning to each other. Hinaut pa.