Third Week of Lent
March 11, 2012
When it started, all was fresh and new. An unnamed but mighty God freed a motley crew of slaves and offered them a new way of life in a new land. Most importantly, he offered them a privileged and exclusive relationship with Himself.
In the ancient world, most nations worshipped their own god and believed themselves to have a special claim on his favor. The Greeks had Zeus and the Canaanites, Ba’al, for instance. But this was different. This mysterious God called himself “I AM who I AM” and apparently tolerated no rivals. He had beaten the Egyptian gods on their own turf and appeared ready to take his new people into Ba’al’s territory. None of the other gods required any special behavior, just sacrificial worship. This new one required fidelity to a code of conduct that reached into every department of life, not just the religious. No area was off limits to the claims of this God – economics, family life, even sexuality. If Israel wanted this special relationship, they had to accept the stamp of his ownership on every aspect of their existence. That was the real meaning of the ten commandments, this Sunday’s first reading.
But what began with heartfelt zeal ultimately became ritual routine. The code of the covenant had called for animal sacrifices and a special place to carry them out. The devotion of David desired a fitting place for God’s house. The resourcefulness of his shrewd son Solomon made the dream a reality. After the Babylonians destroyed it, it was rebuilt in tears, a shadow of its former self. Then a powerful king came along who saw an opportunity to make the temple once again the pride of God’s people. He rebuilt it in even greater glory. But it was more a monument to himself than to God. After all, he cared little for God, and was not even himself a full-blooded Jew. He was rather a cold-blooded murderer whose name will forever live in infamy–Herod the Great.
How about the religious leaders of Herod’s day? Religion had become for them a business. Animals were needed for sacrifice, so they were sold in the temple precincts. Hebrew shekels were needed for the payment of the temple tax, so moneychangers were conveniently available so people could exchange their Roman money for the appropriate Jewish coinage.
The prophet Malachi (3:1-5) had predicted that the Lord would suddenly come to his temple to deal with such things. And Zechariah (14:21) had foretold that on the day of the Lord, there would no longer be any merchant in the temple precincts.
So when Jesus overturned the moneychangers’s tables, he was fulfilling Scripture and making clear that the messianic time of fulfilment was at hand. No more business as usual. No more ho-hum approach to religion. It was now time for living faith, not just religious belief. Zeal for God’s house consumed him, and he had come to light the fire of zeal in us as well.
Lent provides for us an opportunity for a gut-check Has our religion become cold routine, a mere collection of intellectual convictions and external rituals as with the scribes and Pharisees? Is our piety more a monument to ourselves than to God as in the case of Herod? Is Christ crucified for us the power and the wisdom of God, or just a plaster figure hanging on the wall?
The story of Jesus and the moneychangers comes at the beginning of the Gospel of John. From the very outset of his public ministry, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection to his uncomprehending audience. It would be his self-sacrifice that would ultimately lead to a new beginning. And to prepare for that event, he cleaned house.
As we prepare for the celebration of the mystery of redemption, it is time for us too to clean house and to honor his self-sacrifice with authentic sacrifices of our own. http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/905/Cleansing_of_the_Temple.html
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
March 11, 2012
Third Sunday of Lent: Wisdom and Power
This week I would like to concentrate on the second reading from 1 Corinthians 1:22-25:
The Jews demand signs and the Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
The Coming Tsunami
Bottom line: With a tsunami coming, we must put out to the deep waters. Come to Jesus and his Body, the Church.
This Sunday Jesus has some bad news. He speaks about a coming disaster, a disaster that has implications for us today: the destruction of the Temple.
The Original Meaning of Lent
Lent’s a time of introspection. We read Exodus, and watch the Israelites grumbling, even after the amazing things God had done for them (Ex 17:3-7). In them, we recognize ourselves. For many of us, then, Lent is time for the spiritual equivalent of New Year’s resolutions. We set aside work on ourselves for forty days so we don’t end up wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years. We do things to burn off the fat off that’s weighing us down, try to improve our spiritual diet, and do some spiritual exercises to strengthen the muscles we call “virtues.”
The Knowledge of Christ
There has been a lamentable devaluing of the mystery of Jesus that has been going on for 40 years in the Church.
People have looked on Jesus as just a good man who is identified with God in some way. This has led to the positive teaching that Jesus simply learned like any other man. He had to discover he was the Messiah through investigation. Or perhaps he needed to be taught by others that he was the Messiah.
The Three Most Profound Ideas I Have Ever Had
Ideas are more precious than diamonds. The three most precious ideas I have ever discovered all concern the love of God.
None of them is original. But every one is revolutionary. None of them came from me. But all of them came to me with sudden force and fire: the “aha!” experience, the “eureka!” experience. They were all realizations, not just beliefs.
Testing the fruitfulness of your Lenten discipline
Has Lent begun well for you? Is Lent already feeling long? I for one, appreciate the length because it does give us a chance to change course if we feel what we hoped to make work by way of spiritual disciplines is not really working at all. What will make Lent “successful” is not the perfect execution of a plan but a change of mind and heart. I offer these words from Blessed Mother Theresa as the test of the fruitfulness of Lent.
What is Serenity and How can I grow in it?
In Lent, a gift to seek is greater serenity. The word comes from the Latin serenus, meaning clear or unclouded (skies). By extension it thus means calm, without storm.
Serenity has become more used in modern times with the advent of many 12-Step programs which use the serenity prayer as an important help to their work.
Is Christ’s Descent Into Hell Biblical?
Grace in Dallas, the blog for Grace Community Church in Dallas, Oregon, had a post entitled “Creed or Bible?” in which a GCC elder seems to suggest that the Apostle’s Creed is contrary to Scripture. Specifically, he is confused by (and seemingly opposed to) the idea of Christ’s descent into Hell:
Whoa hold on there, Christ descended to Hell? Where did that come from? Pull out the bible, where does it say Christ spent three days in hell? I found plenty of places that God is given power over hell. Christ himself declares his power in Revelation 1:17-18 “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
A Family Lesson From the Ratzingers
Speaking with Monsignor Georg Ratzinger revealed to Michael Hesemann two critical convictions: There is a family secret that explains something of the impressive trajectory lived by the two Ratzinger sons; and divine providence laid the foundations for Joseph’s path to the See of Peter before he was even born.
On Friday, ZENIT published an exclusive excerpt from “My Brother, the Pope,” Monsignor Georg Ratzinger’s story as told to Hesemann. Ignatius Press is releasing the English translation of the book this Thursday.
Only the Pure in Heart Can See God
Over 23 years ago I made my canonical retreat that was required before being ordained a transitional deacon. We were studying the Letter to the Romans in the retreat conferences and came upon a particularly difficult passage early in the retreat.
The retreat master, an older priest and well known scripture scholar stopped his train of thought, perhaps perceiving we were having difficulty and said, “Do you know what is the biggest obstacle for us in understanding the Word of God?” I was expecting a geeky answer like, “We don’t know enough Greek,” or “We haven’t studied the Historical Critical Method carefully enough.” But the priest pleasantly surprised me we he paused, looked around the room and then said, “The biggest obstacle we have to understanding the Word of God is our sin.”
Robert J. Spitzer, SJ wrote an impressive book in 2010 entitled New Proofs for the Existence of God. It was impressive because Fr. Spitzer sought to update both the physical and the philosophical proofs for the existence of God, taking into account the kinds of problems which have been introduced by modern scientists and philosophers, problems which have shed doubt on the reliability of the traditional proofs. This is a task that could only be performed by someone well-educated in both science and philosophy, and Fr. Spitzer—former president of Gonzaga University and founder the Magis Center of Reason and Faith—is such a man.
How the Christ Hides Himself in Order to Reveal Himself
Christ our Lord is the hidden Savior. He is the opposite of a celebrity. He kept His ministry hidden. Even His public teaching is shrouded in parables. One might suppose that after His resurrection He would have gone to the Temple in Jerusalem and preached His inaugural sermon as the resurrected King of Glory. He did not. Rather we read that He often remain hidden and often alone in silence:
“And having dismissed the multitude, he went into a mountain alone to pray. And when it was evening, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23, D-R)
God and Liberal Modernity
“How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun?” — Friedrich Nietzsche
“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” — Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Making Good Decisions, Part 1
Every day we make several decisions. They range from making the decision to get out of bed in the morning instead of hitting the “snooze” button, to making some major decision.
Whether we are talking about our finances or any other decision, how do we discern the will of God?
Mel Gibson’s Upcoming “Berserker” and “Maccabees” Will be Catholic Films
Edit: There’s an old platitude that to know history is to be Catholic, and so Mel Gibson is taking on two historical projects guaranteed to treat Christian themes.
On the one hand, you’re bound to see the heroic resistance of the Christians as the terrible Vikings come down and destroy their world. Perhaps we will hear of the brave resistance of Alfred the Great and how he magnanimously introduced the Vikings he conquered into his household?
Marriage: it’s time to clear away the fog
Can a man marry a man? Can a woman marry a woman? Can a man simultaneously marry several women, or a woman several men? Can a man simultaneously marry several men, or a woman several women? Can a man marry his sister or his mother? His brother or his father? Can a woman marry her brother or father? Her sister or mother?
All of these questions are now on the table in our culture. They cannot be properly answered unless we know what marriage is. As Catholics, we have an incredibly rich body of teaching to draw from in order to understand the meaning and purpose of marriage. Let’s begin with a basic definition drawn from Canon Law and the Second Vatican Council. Then we’ll look at each of its parts.
So You Want To Be a Catholic?
Although WordPress lets us know how many folks visit our blog each day, it doesn’t let us know anything about our readers. As a consequence, I have no way of knowing if this post—whose aim is to help people who are investigating the claims of Catholicism and are thinking that maybe, just maybe, there might be something to them—will actually be read by anyone in my target audience. I’ll take my chances, though, and offer this post in the hope that it will be of use to at least some readers out there who are standing on the opposite bank of the Tiber right now–and wondering what the swim is like.
Jewish Convert: Tom Leopold
Tom Leopold is a comedy writer who lives in New York City with his lovely wife Barbara and their two daughters.
My name is Tom Leopold and I’m a comedy writer (Seinfeld, Cheers, Will and Grace…). I am a Jewish comedy writer, although I always felt saying that was kind of redundant. So much of my humor — practically all of it I suppose— comes from who my people are, what they’ve been through and how they were able to turn it all on its head and find the funny side, even and especially if there was none to find.
Cremation: Recalling Some Basic Catholic Truths
The Church rescinded its prohibition on cremation, but does not consider burial and cremation equally valid methods.
The Newark Star-Ledger reports that acceptance of cremation is growing: 40% of deaths in America (and 40% in New Jersey) result in cremation. In some Western states, the rate reaches 70%. 1
Most writers note that the Church rescinded its prohibition on cremation in 1963, and Catholic acceptance of cremation is fast mirroring the general population.