04 March 20183 Lent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent - Cycle B - John 2:13-25

A priest was a master playing good cop-bad cop in his high school teaching career. In the morning, as a professor he would berate a student who was not working up to his potential. But at 3 PM he would be waiting at the exit to catch the boy and play good cop. He would find out why the student was not producing. Ironically he ended his career as chaplain for the New York Police Department. Jesus Himself used the good cop-bad cop routine.

Christ arrives in Jerusalem for the Passover. The action center was the great Temple. It was one of the world's wonders. The Michelin tourist books had it down on the must-see A list. When the Teacher walked in that day, it was under construction for almost half a century and at the cost of mega millions. To gain admission into the Temple one had to pay half a shekel. That was a big sum amounting to two day's wages. That amount did not bother Jesus. He felt that gifts are owed to His Father. He has been so generous to us. Unlike us, most Jews long had and still have the habit of returning a tenth of their income to God. Anything less they consider an insult to God or just a tip. Who needs God as an enemy? What did disturb Jesus that day and prompt his bad cop-good cop routine? Well, if you were a Jew coming for the Passover from Rome, your money would be in liras.

They were unacceptable at the Temple. So, you had to convert them into shekels with the Temple money changers. They would take you to the cleaners. There was nothing you could do about it. The bankers in this context were bandits. This was theft in the name of religion. The problem for them was that Jesus was always an advocate for the underdog. John tells us today in graphic language what happened. The next best thing to John's prose is the sixteenth century El Greco's magnificent painting of this scene in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. See it before you die. This story sheds important light on the character of Christ. He had a low boiling point. He did not hesitate to resort to physical violence at the sight of people being abused.

This image is far different from the nerdy Jesus greeting card clerks sell us at three dollars each. You may be cringing right about now and saying, "Hey, that's an angry Jesus you're painting. I don't want any part of Him." Well, relax. That is only half the story. That is Jesus the bad cop. Now let's check Him as the good cop. Turn to Matthew's account of this story (21:12-14). There Jesus after driving all the thieves out of the Temple is standing out of breath and in a sweat with his homemade whip in hand. At that point, all the great unwashed and the walking wounded rush up to Him. Some walk on their ankles. Matthew says in a masterpiece of understatement, "He healed them." There is Jesus the good cop. Those who needed Him saw no reason to get out of His way. Quite the contrary. They ran to Him for help and once again He delivered.

There are more than one billion Christians in the world. We should be having a significant impact on the society all about us. That impact should especially be for the underdog whether it be the unborn babe, the abused child, the battered wife or husband, the woman in the soup kitchen, the fellow with AIDS, and so on. What a different society it would be if each of us did something every day for someone weaker than ourselves. "How wonderful it is," wrote Anne Frank, "that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." In fact, though, the majority of us blend into the landscape. Contemporary culture has a dreadful effect on us. Perhaps today's Gospel will motivate us to work for others. It certainly did that for a South African headmaster. He quit his post at a posh prep school rather than submit to the school's apartheid policy. Friends told him he was deranged. He replied, "When I meet God, He will ask me, `Where are your wounds?' If I reply I haven't any, He may inquire, `Wasn't there anything worth fighting for?' I couldn't face that question." It is up to us to determine whether Christ is a forceful person in our lives or just a figure in an Eastern mystery play. The monk tells us to live the Christian life completely so that the priest will not have to tell lies at our funeral. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent: The Ten Commandments

The third covenant presented to us this Lent is the Covenant of the Ten Commandments. Now, it is rather natural, certainly human, for us to want to do everything as easily as possible. This includes the very actions we were created for: to know, love and serve the Lord. We tend to cheapen our following of God. We tend to cheapen the foundation law of God's covenant with us, the Ten Commandments. Today I would like to offer a bit deeper look at a few of the commandments. The first commandment tells us not to practice idiolatry. We cheapen the first commandment into avoiding offering incense to a statue in our homes. But the commandment is much more than this. It is a commandment not to put anything before God. The materialist is an idol worshiper. His god is his money, his stuff. A person caught up in promiscuity is an idol worshiper, his god is his body.

The selfish narcissistic individual is an idol worshiper, his god is himself. The Jewish Temple priests of today's Gospel were more concerned with the money they were making in the Temple than worshiping God in the Temple. Jesus accused them of making money their god, violating the first commandment. He threw them out of the Temple. Look at the third commandment. We talk about keeping holy the Sabbath Day and note the obligation we have to celebrate the Lord's Supper on Sundays. But the question comes, would our churches be crowded if we did not have that obligation? I hope that for most of us, the obligation to attend Mass and receive the sacraments is secondary to our deep need to experience the Real Presence of the Lord in His Word, at the Last Supper, on the Cross, and in the Eucharist.

Still, I am certain that some people only attend church out of fear of a punishment if they didn't attend. Consider the fourth commandment, Honor thy father and mother. We tend to push this commandment down the throats of our children, but we often don?t realize that the commandment does not have a particular age limit on the parents who are to be honored. When I go into the nursing homes and see so many elderly who have no one there, but who do have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren some where else, I have to wonder what those people think of the fourth commandment.

Recently there have been sad discussions on euthanasia, saying that people have a right to demand their own death when they are sick. Aside from the question of violating the fifth commandment, Thou shall not kill, I find horrible immorality in the fact that many of the elderly would be pressured to allow their lives to end so their savings would not be used up on medical care. Believe me, this is not far fetched. One time I was asked to speak to a woman in a local hospital about having a trachiometry performed so she could survive pneumonia. Her daughter had called me up and asked me to speak to her Mom. So I went to the hospital and reasoned with her: the doctors feel confident that you will live and that the tube will be able to be removed once you are cured. Then, the daughter came in. She was furious with me. She told me that I had no idea how much money her mother was spending on her health and that she hoped I?d tell her to just leave well enough alone.

She wanted her mother dead so that Mom's money would be available for other members of the family. You might want to consider this true story the next time you feel that euthanasia should be allowed. Obviously, the daughter didn't think she was violating the fifth commandment and trying to kill her mother by convincing her not to have the procedure. I'm also sure that the daughter would claim that throughout her life she followed the fourth commandment d the fifth commandment. I am not so sure that she had a clue of what those commandments demand. Consider the sixth commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery. O no, Father isn?t going to talk about that now is he? Well, I have to tell you a number of years ago I was hearing the first confessions of our seven and eight year olds and a little boy told me that he committed adultery. I told him that he didn't, only adults do that, that's why it's called adultery. OK, so I cheated, but I had a hard time to keep from cracking up.

Anyway, people tend to only consider the sexual dimension of the sixth commandment. It is a lot deeper than that. Adultery is not just about sex. It is about putting others and things before the one we are committed to in life. Essentially it is a violation of a vow made to God and to a husband or wife. Everybody wants religion to be easy. The Jews wanted signs so they would not have to take steps of faith. Many people today travel throughout the world looking for miracles to be the basis of their faith. The gentiles, the Greek philosophers wanted neat theories on who God is and who Jesus is. Many people today get caught up in rationalizing their way out of faith and morality. "We," St. Paul says to the Corinthians, "offer something that is not based on rationalization nor on wonders. We preach Christ crucified." (1 Cor 1:23). The crucifix both reminds us of Christ's sacrifice and calls us to join Him in sacrificing ourselves for Him and for His father's kingdom.

This is not easy. This is, though, the way of the Lord. The Ten Commandments call us to a way of life that is out of tune with much of society. Honesty, respect for parents, fidelity, respect for property, putting God before all else, giving Him a day a week, are all ways that we are distinct from others. To be distinct, to be separate for the Lord, is what we mean when we say, "We are called to be holy." We live these commandments so that ultimately we might not be wrapped up in ourselves. We live these commandments in response to God's preference of us as his chosen people. The Ten Commandments are a covenant made by Moses with God for us, the People of God. They should not be reduce to a minimum. They should be embraced as our way of responding to the covenant to be God's people.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Lent
Finding Hope When Life Hurts Week 3: The True Temple
(March 4, 2018)

Bottom line: Jesus is the true temple: the blood and water flowing from Jesus cleanse us and free us from slavery to Satan.
TodaToday is the one-month Mass for Sister Barbara. Back in the fourth century St. Ambrose spoke about the death of his friend. "We have loved him during life, let us not abandon him, until we have conducted him by our prayers into the house of the Lord." Let's do the same for Sister Barbara. In addition to a one-month Mass we will have a six-month and a one-year Mass for her. Paraphrasing St. Ambrose our holy card says: "We have loved her during life, let us not abandon her, until we have conducted her by our prayers into the house of the Lord."

This Lent I am giving you something I hope you will treasure and put to good use: the Case for Jesus by Brant Pitre. Last week we saw how Dr. Pitre defends the reliability of the Gospel and their superiority to the so-called Lost Gospels. I'd read them when I was back in the seminary. They have some interesting parts but, really, there's no comparison between them and Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. What Dr. Pitre does in Case for Jesus is to present Jesus in his Jewish context. For example, today we hear Jesus say, "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will rebuild it." Dr Pitre explains what the temple means for a Jewish person of the first century. In the Jewish context you can see how Jesus' talk about the Temple shows his claim to divinity - that he is consubstantial with the Father. Dr. Pitre then describes something I never thought about: What happens to the blood of all the lambs sacrificed in the Jewish Temple?

Well, it turns out the Temple had a drainage system that merged the lambs' blood with water from the spring on Mount Zion. Blood and water literally flowed from the side of the Temple. (read Case for Jesus, pp. 168-172, for details) We'll hear more about blood and water on Good Friday. Stay tuned. Besides the blood and water there's something more about the Temple that we can see in relation to today's first reading. When Solomon built the original Temple about a thousand years before Jesus, it had an area called the Holy of Holies which housed the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark contained three objects: the manna, that is, the bread from heaven; the staff of the priest Aaron (Moses' older brother) and the tablets of the Ten Commandments. For Jewish people the Ten Commandments - the Law - was more than a list of things to do and not to do. The Law is God's great gift leading to freedom. As we heard today, the first commandment says, "I the Lord am your God who brought you out of Egypt, that place of slavery." Slavery is a horrible part of human history and it continues today - human trafficking. God hates it because no human being has the right to own another human. But there is something worse than physical slavery.

 A person can abuse his freedom, destroy himself and others. We all know people who have become slaves to alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling. You name it. There are other more hidden forms of slavery. God - in Jesus - wants to bring us out of Egypt, that place of slavery. In Finding Hope When Life Hurts, Fr. Sica describes the importance of being able to say "no" so that we can say "yes" to what really matters. As we saw on the First Sunday of Lent, we need to say "no" to the devil, all the ways he wants to deceive and enslave us - and destroy relationships. Well, this Sunday we have special prayer against the Evil One. It's called the First Scrutiny - an exorcism prayer for candidates for Confirmation and Easter Sacraments. Don't worry, this exorcism prayer does not mean you are possessed by the devil, but you do need help against his attacks. The First Scrutiny is based on Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman - the Woman at the Well seeking living water. Jesus is the Living Water who fills our deepest thirst. Jesus is the true temple: the blood and water flowing from Jesus cleanse us and free us from slavery to Satan. Jesus wants us to have a new life: "Lord you have the words of eternal life." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent, Classic Sunday, March 4, 2018
John 2: 13:25

Gospel Summary
Since the Passover was near, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival with his fellow Jews. When he arrives at the temple area, he drives out those who were selling animals for sacrifice as well as the money changers, saying, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." When the temple authorities (the "Jews") demanded a sign from Jesus for what he had done, he said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." After Jesus was raised from the dead his disciples remembered what he had said. They realized he was speaking of the temple of his body, and came to believe the Scripture and what he had spoken. John adds that Jesus was able to recognize true belief in him because he could read the human heart.

Life Implications
The The idea of where one lives or dwells is perhaps the central theme of the fourth gospel. John begins his gospel by telling us that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and made his dwelling among us. "In the beginning" the Word was dwelling with God, and the Word was God. Immediately after his baptism in the Jordan, we hear the first words that Jesus speaks in the fourth gospel. He sees two disciples of John the Baptist following him and says to them, "What are you looking for?" They reply. "Rabbi, where are you staying?" Jesus replies, "Come, and you will see." (John 1: 38?39) We already are alerted to the fact that John's gospel is a gospel of incarnation. Its essence is sacramental or symbolic: the extraordinary is actualized in the ordinary. The eternal Word becomes present and is revealed by dwelling among us. Thus we realize that the disciples' question about where Jesus is dwelling is not merely about a street address somewhere in Galilee. When Jesus replies "Come, and you will see," we realize he also means seeing with the eyes of faith. When he speaks to his disciples, we realize he is also speaking to us. The astonishing good news that Jesus reveals is that anyone who believes in him will dwell where he dwells, with the Father. John's gospel is the narrative of the signs that Jesus does so that those whom he encountered then, and those who hear the gospel now might believe and have life in him (John 20: 31).

John presents various types of people who refuse to see the extraordinary through the signs, and also the beloved disciples who do see and come to believe in Jesus. Today's gospel is a prophetic warning so that we will not be like the temple authorities who do not see that Jesus is the one sent by God to dwell among us in new ways. Jesus' action in the temple is in the tradition of the prophets. They rebuked the people who thought they were safe by coming to the temple while committing all sorts of abominations (Jeremiah 7). Jesus, like the prophets before him, loved the temple, but he is warning us that even the most holy created realities can become obstacles to believing in him and believing what he has spoken. The temple truly was the dwelling place of the divine presence: the holy place of prayer and communion with God.

The temple authorities believed this, but they had narrowed their vision, and thus were unable to see that Jesus himself was the new temple. He himself is the indestructible dwelling place of the divine presence, of prayer and communion with God. We can reduce the meaning of the Christian sacraments to suit our own purposes, and thus close our eyes to other signs of the divine presence to which the sacraments point. For Catholics the most holy sacrament of the Risen Lord's presence is the Bread of the Eucharist. It is possible to believe in this sacramental divine presence and at the same time to ignore what Jesus has spoken to us of his presence in the least of his brothers and sisters. It might give us pause to note that the criterion of final judgement that Jesus tells us about is not whether we recognize his presence in the Eucharist, but whether we respond with compassion to his presence in the least of his brothers and sisters (Matthew 25: 31:46). Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Lent

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