Sunday, March 11, 2012

3rd Sunday of Lent

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple, he found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, while money changers sat at their counters. Making a whip out of cords, Jesus drove them all out of the Temple--with the sheep and oxen-- and overturned the tables of the money changers, scattering their coins. Then he faced those who were selling doves and said, "Take all this out of here! Stop turning God's house into a market!"Then, the disciples recalled the words of Scripture, "Zeal for your house consumes me."At this, the Temple authorities intervened and said to Jesus, "What sign can you show us to justify what you are doing?"Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."They retorted: "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you're going to raise it up in three days?"But the 'temple' he was speaking about was his body.It was only until after Jesus was raised from the dead,that the disciples remembered this statement, and came to believe the Scriptures and the word Jesus had spoken.While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, many people believed in him, for they could see the signs he was performing. But Jesus knew all people and what was in their hearts, and for that reason, didn't entrust himself to them. (JOHN 2:13-25)

What constitutes true worship of God? What does God himself expect of us? How do we know our relationship with him is even remotely appropriate? How does someone who has understood – within human limits – who God really is, relate to him? These are questions the liturgy of this Third Sunday of Lent answers for us. It begins by acknowledging God´s holiness and his claim on us. It recognizes that we are his people, and must live in a way that reflects his holiness. The covenant proposes the conditions of a holy people, and Jesus indicates the respect due to his Father and the new worship that will center on the temple of his body, that is, his humanity. The new mentality of the Christian people, no longer conformed by worldly aspirations of success, understands that Jesus is first of all the Crucified One. Nailing our worldliness to the cross, we become capable of true worship.

DOCTRINAL MESSAGE Who is God? An absolutely fundamental question, but how can we answer it? He has no paragon; God is… well, God. One way we try to express it is by saying the God is holy, the All-Holy. The concept of holy in Scripture is the idea of one who is "God, not man", separate from whatever is profane, material, imperfect; totally pure. In fact, it is something that men and women of prayer – such as the great figures of the Old Testament, and Mary – sense without being able to define. The purification of the temple is a Messianic gesture. Its purpose is to indicate the beginning of the final stage in the history of man´s relationship with God. At long last men and women will offer God a worship worthy of him, "when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:22). But, can a created being offer God worthy homage? Is this not a vain and arrogant pretension? No, because from now on our praise and adoration will be offered through the Son of God - who is God (Creed: "God from God") but has united himself to our humanity and is man. "Through him, with him, in him" we are now able to offer the Father "all glory and honor". Our Christian understanding is not solely that Jesus becomes, as it were, the one worthy representative of our race who can worship the Father in our name, but that having been incorporated into him we can all offer worthy sacrifice to God in his Name. What is the secret formula, then, for a religion pleasing to God. "Jews demand ´signs´ and Greeks look for ´wisdom,´ but our way, preached to us by St Paul, is the way of God´s foolishness: Christ crucified - the one perfect sacrifice that has reconciled us with God and returned to our hearts the Spirit that cries out to him, "Abba, Father".

PASTORAL APPLICATIONS The two essentials of true worship are to go through Jesus and to live according to God´s will. One of the most frequent accusations of non-believers against religious persons is that they are "hypocritical". More often than not, this is either a case of people justifying their own lack of religious commitment, or of the misconception that you profess the faith because you live it perfectly (while in fact we profess the faith because we don´t live it perfectly, though we want to). Nevertheless it is certainly true that we cannot please God if we "praise him with our lips while our hearts –and lives- are far from him". Prayers and devotions are quite useless unless we want what God wants; unless we live in conformity with his plan for our life. When he established a covenant with Israel, he gave us in the Decalogue the blueprint for the basic structure of the edifice. Jesus filled in the details with the Beatitudes, and with all he did and taught. A healthy Christian spirituality, or religious practice, has to respect the way to God that he himself has established. Our way to him necessarily passes through Jesus Christ, God and man. The saints, and much more so Mary the Mother of God, can help us, but Christ must be the center of our faith. To go through Christ is not exhausted by using liturgical formulas. It´s power is only fully unleashed if it defines your whole attitude to God and others, and to all the realities of life. Among other things it involves: Giving a Christ-centered meaning to your professional life. Treating everyone around you as you would treat Christ himself. Making the four gospels your preferred reading; if you read the newspapers every day, you should definitely read a passage from the gospels every day too.

Peace and love,
Reverend Sue Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)