May 18 - May 27, weekend Masses
Sunday, June 2
Third Sunday of Lent - March 11, 2012
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3rd Sunday of Lent B 2012 (Ex 20:1-17; I Cor. 1:22-25; John 2:13-25)
For cycle A, scroll down
What do you think was going on for Jesus to do what he did in today’s Gospel? Taken literally, the scene in this Gospel is alarming, graphic and violent. Jesus makes a whip, drives out the animals and overturns the tables of moneychangers, scattering their coins. As the Temple is cleansed, so is our image of a gentle, compassionate and loving Jesus. All four Gospels record the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple, so we know it must have held great significance. So how do we reconcile this image of an angry Jesus with his normal gentle treatment of sinners and peaceful message of forgiveness and love?
Perhaps understanding why Jesus did what he did may help us. Jesus comes to the Temple for Passover. There he encounters not his Father’s house but a marketplace, filled with sheep and oxen, sellers of doves, money changers – a privileged class of Jewish merchants who were there to grease the wheels of Temple worship. Those coming to the Temple to offer sacrifice could not use common Roman money to purchase a suitable animal. They had to exchange their secular coins for Temple coins in order to make a purchase. The money changers made a profit on each transaction. To think of it in today’s reality would be as if the temple took Euros – say $2Euro for a dove for sacrifice. The moneychangers would charge not only the conversion rate for the American dollar, but would charge an extra amount to make a sizable profit for themselves. In effect, they were exploiting the poor for their personal profit. This manner of cheating and exploiting the poor is what many scholars think provoked the strong and harsh response of Jesus. Others say it was simply his disgust at seeing the holiest place of Jewish worship turned into a place of commerce.
When we view this reality through the lens of the first reading from the Book of Exodus, we are challenged to look into our hearts at what needs his cleansing. We live in a culture that breaks the first three commandments without thought. For many, money is their god, not God. The work to earn more and to buy more toys to the point of missing Mass and not keeping Holy the Sabbath. God becomes non-existent if not placed way down on the list of priorities. Soccer games become the Sabbath for many families or baseball or basketball. How many people sacrifice attending Mass to make it to weekend tournaments?
The 4th Commandment troubled me for many years. I grew up in a home where physical and emotional abuse ruled. Thanks be to God that in Seminary I began to learn how to communicate effectively, but also that through the Charismatic renewal, my father’s life changed. But before those experiences of grace, I did not respect him nor did I honor him. I even wondered if I would mourn when he died. But as he grew in faith and the awareness of God’s love for him, our relationship grew and healed. We ended every phone conversation with “I love you” to each other. Literally, that commandment means to take care of our parents in their old age and to remember and honor them for cooperating with God’s creative power in giving us life. It doesn’t mean denying or allowing abuse to continue, but to do our best to forgive and love them.
The next few commandments are obvious – not committing adultery, not stealing, not killing. But how about bearing false witness? Do we not do that in gossip when we spread rumors that we may or may not know are true? We do this many times with vengeance, judgment and malice clearly intended. And we so willingly believe and accept what we hear as truth. Instead, perhaps we should pray for those we are tempted to gossip about – pray for healing with the gossip is a form of vengeance and pray for the person to heal and know God’s love when the gossip is a reaction to something we witness or have heard that they have done.
And coveting neighbors’ goods or spouses drive our society into envy, theft, jealousy, and even adultery. The wisdom is doing our best to avoid these sins is obvious but also helps us to value what we have and who we are and those we love. We material possessions and lust rule our hearts, then we will never know true peace and joy!
Lent is a time for repentance and renewal. We invite Jesus into the temple of our souls. We have our penance service this Monday at 7 with at least 7 visiting priests here to help bring God’s healing into our hearts and souls. We have the perfect opportunity to open our hearts to God’s mercy and forgiveness as we confess our sins and with God’s grace try to uproot the cause of our sins – love for honor, power, wealth and pleasure! When we put Jesus and God first in our lives as is demanded in the First Commandment, then we know what heavenly and true bliss is, especially as it comes with a forgiven conscience and clean slate!
Third Sunday Lent A First Scrutiny March 11, 2012
This weekend we celebrate the first scrutiny with our elect (Jesse, Victoria and Debbie) who are preparing for baptism. Our candidates for full communion celebrated the penitential rite a week ago. A scrutiny is a special rite that uncovers and heals all that is sinful, and brings out and strengthens all that is good; and believe it or not, there is even a prayer of exorcism! Anyone else want to join them for that part? All of us, whether we are preparing for baptism or have been a baptized Catholic for many years, are in need of healing and reconciliation. We have a wonderful opportunity tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at our penance service to celebrate God’s mercy and forgiveness.
I love this passage from John. John implicitly affirms that what Jesus really thirsts for is the Samaritan woman’s faith in him as the Son of God. He also thirsts for his disciples faith and understanding as well as ours. Notice how the disciples are once again clueless about the deeper mystery of their master’s untimely public encounter with a Samaritan woman. I wander how often we miss Jesus’ presence working through us with unlikely people at unlikely times. He has the same patience with us as our faith continues to develop and unfold. Often times it’s simply ourselves who lose patience with ourselves. If Jesus can call this dense group of men to continue his mission, he doesn’t give up on us when we miss the deeper mysteries of encounters we have with others and with him.
When we look at today’s gospel reading even more carefully, we see a woman who is broken. She has experienced rejection. She knows that people around her love highlighting her flaws to each other. She knows that she shouldn’t be mixing with men or people of another culture but she still needs to live. So she approaches the water well to get some water. This will at least give her some short term refreshment. And she does this at noon, at a time when she thought no one would be around so that she can avoid having to experience any embarrassment. Do we know anyone like this?
Some years ago a Catholic parish in the Upstate decided to do something out of character. They decided to physically introduce themselves to the people living around the church…by visiting their neighbors. They told them where the church was, who Catholics are, invited them to a meal, gave them a brochure of their activities and invited them some other events. So parish members in small groups walked around the streets close to the church building knocking on doors, and they received a variety of responses:
From amazement to I always wondered what that building was. To Ahh we aren’t into that religious stuff. To what’s the catch? However there was one instance that stood out for this congregation. They knocked on the door of an elderly lady. On hearing who they were and that they were inviting her to something, she was overwhelmed. She said “I used to go to the Catholic Church, however I got divorced, so I just stopped going because I was worried about what people would say and that I would be constantly judged by people and that God wouldn’t want me there.” She now is a regular worshipping member of that parish, simply because the people of that parish took the time with her. They not only told her but they also showed her that Jesus constantly loves her and wants her to be part of the Church and his family. And that is what Jesus did at the well for the Samaritan woman. Jesus demonstrates this love to the Samaritan woman in at least 3 ways.
First of all Jesus was resting at the well. But he wasn’t there by chance. Although Samaria was the direct route between Judea and Galilee, Jesus had to make a deliberate decision to go to Samaria, because it was the Jewish habit to bypass Samaria taking a longer route so as to avoid the unclean and unacceptable Samaritans. So Jesus went out of his way to be in a place where he will meet people in need - people who are hurt and broken, despised and hated by Jesus’ own people, victims of intense religious and racial prejudice.
Secondly, Jesus takes the initiative. He does something which even this woman knows is not done. He talks to her and asks her for a drink of water. Now in today’s climate this may sound like nothing. But in that world it was not appropriate for a man and a woman who did not know each other to talk to each other in public, no matter the circumstances. It was not acceptable. And those who are Jewish, like Jesus, would have nothing to do with the Samaritans. Not only would they not drink from the same container, but from a Jewish perspective if a Samaritan person had touched a water jug, then that jug was totally unclean and it would contaminate everything else that it came into contact with. So Jesus initiating this conversation with the woman shocks her. And it begins a discussion that brings her closer to Christ. However what was the women’s response? She attempted to use society’s rules and constructs to prevent this interaction between her and Jesus. Maybe she felt a little uncomfortable. Perhaps she had been burnt before with promises, so she acted defensively. Or maybe she was so shocked she didn’t know what to do. And this brings us to the third way Jesus shows his love to the Samaritan woman.
When Jesus said that the woman had five husbands in her life, he may have been hinting at something a little more than just poor discretion. On the surface this appears like a moral judgment. However there may have also been another meaning because the word baal in Hebrew, a language familiar to the Samaritans, means both gods and husband. Either way what Jesus was saying to the woman was you have sought love from so many things, and all these things have let you down. They have in fact given you extra worries, extra burdens in your life and they could only give you short-term satisfaction.
And at times Jesus does this to us. He uses situations that occur in our lives to jolt us into realizing that maybe we are devoted to things which do not truly give us lasting life. Not only that, some of those things actually cause us damage for many years after they have been of any benefit. He helps us see that we should be more devoted to the things that offer us eternal life. In doing so Jesus gives us another road to take - a road that leads to life, to the joys of heaven, not the emptiness offered by this world. On this road He nourishes us with His life giving water. The water we first experienced at our baptism, where we received promises that we can constantly call upon. The scriptures, Eucharist, the sacraments and prayer are God’s tangible ways of showing us his love and of reinforcing and bringing his death and resurrection into our lives. They say to the Samaritan women of today and they say to each one of us: God receives you with all your flaws, with all your bad habits and with all your burdens and worries. And he has given and continues to give you the gift of eternal life.
Jesus wants to bring us from a state of brokenness to being welcomed and reconciled with God. Yes Jesus still thirsts. It is not a cup of water he wants but the very essence of our hearts and souls!