Sunday, March 15, 2009

Third Sunday of Lent

Dear All,

It looks like this year’s Lenten reflections are all being written above 35,000 feet.  Last week’s was written on my way to Brazil, the one before on my way to London and this one is being typed into to laptop on my way to Germany.  With all this traveling around it has been a challenge to find that quiet time for prayer and reflection.  Fasting is going well as reflected by several pounds less.  As for almsgiving, the third of the Lenten priorities, I am glad we have a few more weeks before Easter to give me a chance to catch up.  How is your Lenten coming along?

The Old Testament Readings continue on the path of God’s covenants.  We recall Genesis’ Noah’s story of the First Sunday with God’s promise to all living creatures.  Last week it was a promise to Abraham and his descendants larger in number than the stars on the night sky.  This week we read from the Book of Exodus about God’s ten commandments given to Moses on Mount Horeb, better known as Mount Sinai.  Every year we get a chance to remind ourselves of these instructions given to the Israelites just a few months into their journey to the Promised Land.  Some scholars estimate that only three months had elapsed since they had escaped captivity from Egypt and they were already getting into all sorts of troubles among themselves wondering if captivity with sure food would not be better than this wondering around in the desert.  The commandments are God’s promise that if they follow them they will have better relationships among themselves.  They certainly needed them for their 40 year journey through the desert.  I ask myself how well am I following them and how am I doing in relationship with my fellows on this life’s journey.  In this day an age, some are straightforward and almost self evident for some of us, like “Thou shall not kill”.  Although there are Catholics in high ranking positions today (number 2 and 3 in the US Presidential succession as one example) that with a “pro choice” versus “pro life” position seem to have a bit of a fuzzy view about this one.  I am going to stay away from commenting an all ten here.  But I do suggest that you spend sometime reflecting on one or two of them that are in your way of better relationships.  That is what God wants from us, to live in good relations with our neighbors.

John’s Gospel was written about 70 years after the Resurrection at the time when the three Synoptic Gospels were well known in the Christian community.  While Matthew, Mark and Luke wrestle with the What, When and Who, John is more on the question of Why.  The Story of kicking out the traders and money dealers from the Great Temple, one of the world wonders at its time -under construction for half a century, is told by all three Synoptics much later in their narrative, while John has it quite early.  When John tells his story the Temple of Jerusalem had already been destroyed by the Romans, not leaving a single stone in its place.  Jesus shows a strong emotion, though he took his time to let it build up.  “He made a whip out of cords” must have taken some time.  The market place was not unrelated to the temple… the money changers were there to change liras, roman coins to shekels, Hebrew money (as roman coins would have been an offense for the offerings)… the dove, sheep and oxen traders found their place to provide ‘material’ for the sacrifices.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has the original of El Greco’s great rendition of this scene.  Yet the Jews were loosing sight of what the worship was all about with the distractions about all the trading going on.  Jesus confrontation with the religious leadership of his time (the Jews) who felt threatened by this Jesus and challenged him for signs, is a repeating theme in John’s Gospel.  Paul tells us in his first Letter to the Corinthians that Jews were looking for signs, very much like Greeks believed in reason as a source of the almighty.  Jesus foretells his resurrection by using the words of rebuilding the temple in three days.  I like John’s editorial comment for all of us who may not get it either, “but he was speaking about the temple of his body”.  John’s gospel has seven sign’s from the miracle of converting water into wine at the Canaan wedding all the way to the resurrection of Lazarus, providing ample signs.  Yet the Scribes and Pharisees did not get it.  Much worse they felt threatened… but that is a story we’ll read in a few weeks, on Palm Sunday.

A complete text of the readings at:

With God’s Love and Blessings,


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