Monday, March 5, 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent

Ex 20:1-17
Ps 19
I Cor 1:22-25
Jn 2:13-25

The readings today are rich.  Each could be the basis for a very long homily. It is a temptation I will resist.  God as revealed in the first reading is not a God of relativism, accommodation, negotiation, or adaptation to social trends. The same is true of the Jesus we encounter in John's Gospel.

The Ten Commandments are short and to the point.  Among the 'thou shalt nots' are prohibitions against killing, stealing, adultery, and lying.  Among the 'thou shalts' we find honoring God's name, keeping holy the sabbath, and honoring one's parents.

"Thou shalt not kill" does not make an exception for abortion because it is called delivery of women’s health care. 

“Honor thy father and mother" does make permit asking to have mom or dad, grandma or grandpa put down through what is now called, "physician guided death,' a euphemism I would label hilarious were it not so frightening. 

While the prohibition against adultery should be self-evident, it doesn't take long wading in the moral swamp of modern American life to get the idea that it is frequently ignored.  The first three commandments lead into the gospel.

"Have no false gods . . . "
This includes the false gods of commerce, sports, and ME.

"Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain . . . " 
This includes using Jesus' name as punctuation, a punch line, or a filler for the inarticulate.

"Keep holy the Sabbath . . . ."  This nicely covers the scene described in today's Gospel.

The second chapter of John‘s Gospel is 25 verses long. In the space between the end of verse 12, the Wedding at Cana, and the beginning of today's reading with verse 13, there is a massive change in tone. This particular gospel reading forces us to confront our ideas of who Jesus is and how He acts.  It is not a warm and fuzzy scene.  There is no warm, huggy, and smiling Jesus here.  For those for whom zeal for God’s house or observance of the commandments is a sometimes thing, for those whose faith and observance shifts with current social trends, the meeting with Jesus here is uncomfortable. 

As already mentioned the Jesus of the gospels is not a Jesus of accommodation to current social mores.  He is not one to adapt to what people want, to what everyone is doing. "Oh, c'mon Jesus, get with it, everybody is selling animals in the Temple these days."  "Keep your religion out of my life." "My body, Myself."  "I am the only one who can determine what is moral for me." 

The Jesus of the gospels challenged political authorities.  He challenged society at large in condemning adultery, divorce and extortion, among others.  The Jesus of the gospels called a spade a spade.  He did not cave into secular society.  He would not tolerate desecration of His Father’s house.   We do well to remember that. The scene of Jesus overturning tables in the Temple while driving the money changers out with a whip, bothers many. They are bothered because Jesus is not gentle, affirming, or negotiating. There is no way to manipulate his words to be anything than what they are.

The late Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow, made an insightful comment on this gospel passage in his commentary on John's Gospel.  “One puzzling aspect of the narrative is how generation after generation can hear this account and persist in clinging to their cherished image of Jesus. . . so 'gentle and mild' as to be incapable of overthrowing anything, (including) the reader’s smugness. . . . The Jesus in this, or any other gospel, is not a standard-bearer for bleeding hearts. The aim of the Gospel is not to provide us with the biography of an inspiring hero, who fits . . . our ambitions, conforms to our ideals, or meets our conceptions of what constitutes greatness.”

Perhaps Stanley might have included that Jesus was not a standard bearer for political correctness or the politics of either the left of the right.  Without zeal for God’s house the Church cannot survive.  Without that zeal we might as well stay in bed on Sunday and watch the shopping channel, football reruns, or 'The View.'  Only zeal for God's house, only time spent in prayer and contemplation, will allow us to understand the basic truth heard in the psalm.

“The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the Lord is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart,
the command of the lord is clear,
enlightening the eye."

The Lord truly has the words to everlasting life.

If we are willing to hear them.

The photo was taken at the National Shrine of the Immaculate conception in D.C. several years ago. It is of the altar rail gate at the main altar. Any man age 65 and up who was an altar boy in grade school has those words seared into his memory. They were the first words after the sign of the cross at the foot of the altar. Father intoned these words and we responded, ad Dei qui laetificat juventutam meam. Translation: "I will go unto the altar of God." "The God who gives joy to my youth." 
Homily late being posted. The weekend did not go according to plan. Originally was to be in D.C. yesterday to celebrate the monthly Slovenian Mass at the chapel of our Lady of Brezje at the National Shrine. Left Boston Thursday about 10 AM. Nice easy drive down. Was raining as I pulled into my cousin's house in the Poconos (the very edge). Rain just beginning. Rain quite hard a few hours later. The snow began at 6 AM. The wind shortly afterwards. The power went out at 11 AM. Fortunately restored at 8 PM or so. When all was said and done 8 inches of snow with much more in some surrounding areas. 
Saturday was not good. Roads locally a mess. Had no plan to take 81 to Baltimore (I avoid 81 unless it is warm, sunny, and no foul weather predicted in the next two weeks. Too many nightmare drives.) Got back yesterday afternoon. Crashed after supper. Once on 81 N and 84 E the trip was OK. Many fewer 18-wheelers than usual on a Sunday. No significant snow along 84 after Port Jervis. Matamoras was a different story.  
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

No comments:

Post a Comment