Third Sunday of Lent

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Third Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 8, 2015

If you have a picture in your head of ‘Gentle Jesus, Meek 
and Mild’ then today’s Gospel ought to make you get rid
of it straight away. If you think of Jesus as some sort of  namby-pamby figure then I suggest you think again.

Where this widespread idea comes from I do not know, but it certainly is not in accord with what the scriptures tell us about Jesus. It is most likely a 19th Century invention and probably comes from the sort of edifying pictures the Victorians thought were appropriate to childhood nurseries in middle class households.

But this kind of image of a sweet and saccharine Jesus is really quite subversive and does true religion no good whatever. What it does is turn our Divine Saviour into a weak-minded do-gooder. It strips him of his divinity and turns him into a kind of inoffensive romantic individual with a nice sideline in miracles.

This is not Jesus. This is not the Christ of the Gospels. This is not the Saviour who died for us on Calvary. And this is certainly not the Christ who drove the money changers out of the Temple.

Catholic doctrine has from the earliest times taught that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. And if he is true man then he is a full person with all the emotions and all the moods and all the feelings that constitute a real and authentic human being.

So we should immediately put out of our heads the meek and mild individual of the holy pictures in the nursery. It says in today’s extract from St John’s Gospel, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ To be consumed with zeal implies someone who is firing on all cylinders. It implies someone who puts every ounce of energy into their emotions and desires.

As always, we can learn from Our Lord. And the lesson today surely is that we should not be afraid of our emotions and we should feel free to give them appropriate expression.

I suppose the one emotion most people are afraid of is anger. We don’t like to be in the company of angry people and like it even less when we ourselves are overwhelmed by what we perceive as the most destructive of the emotions.

Actually, I’m not sure that anger is the most destructive of the emotions; I tend to think that jealousy is far worse. But as we say, there is a time and a place for everything and what we see today in the Gospel is anger appropriately and justifiably expressed by Jesus.

The scene described by John misses out some important background information that might help us to understand the reason for Jesus’ anger. Because of the rules for ritual purity the people could only make their offering to the Temple in Jewish currency and not in the money in ordinary circulation.

Hence the need for moneychangers who of course charged a hefty commission. And, no doubt, licences to offer money changing in the Temple precincts cost a few bob payable to the Temple authorities.

Jesus was right; his Father’s house had been turned into a den of thieves. And anger was the appropriate response.

The key to Jesus’ anger is to be found in the first reading. “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.”

This is the first and most important of the Ten Commandments. It forbids belief in false Gods or the worship of idols. Now in those days this was understood in a very straightforward manner and became institutionalised in the sacrifices offered in the Temple.

But Jesus is not content with mere outward conformity to the Law of God; what he wants is interior obedience, obedience of the heart. These merchants are clearly serving not God but themselves. Their aim is not true worship of the unseen God but the accumulation of money. And worse of all this involves the exploitation of the poor and devout.

This is what makes Jesus angry and leads him to clear them from the Temple. But the direct consequence of the Cleansing of the Temple was Christ’s arrest and death on the Cross. Indeed in his remarks about destroying the temple and it being raised up in three days Jesus makes it quite clear that he is fully aware of the consequences.

It was this intervention into what they regarded as their territory that upset the Temple authorities. From that moment they were determined to do away with this “usurper”.

It was not Jesus’ anger that was inappropriate it was the anger of the Temple authorities that was totally out of place. These people who were supposed to be guarding the faith of Israel against the worship of false Gods end up killing the very Son of God. If this is not the greatest irony of all time then I don’t know what is!

Just going back to anger and how to deal with it; as we have said anger or any other emotion can never be sinful in itself. It is the thoughts and actions that flow from our emotions that can be destructive and therefore sinful.

If we experience anger or jealousy or any other strong and potentially destructive emotion we need to find appropriate ways to express it without falling into sin. We need to release the emotion without making things worse and this is not easily done. Often when we experience strong emotions our judgement becomes clouded and we are then unable to distinguish rights from wrongs.

The key I suppose is not what we do when we are angry but what we do when we are calm. That is not what we do in those few moments when we are filled with strong emotions but what we do all the rest of the time when we are in a normal and steady frame of mind.

If we normally take the trouble to see the other person’s point of view, if over a long period we try to develop an inclination towards tranquillity, if we consistently try to follow the teachings of the Beatitudes in our ordinary lives then when we do fly off the handle our anger will be short lived and we will be unlikely to do anything rash.

As it says at the end of our text today, “he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.” From this we understand that Jesus knows all there is to know about human nature. Perhaps it is us who still have a lot to learn.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 8, 2015

Third Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 8, 2015
Today, Jesus drives out vendors and moneychangers from the Temple. What prompted this rare flash of aggression?

Gospel (Read Jn 2:13-25)

St. John describes a visit Jesus made to the Jerusalem Temple near Passover. To best understand this episode, we need to know something about the physical arrangement of the Temple at this time, as well as some of the customs and business conducted there. The “temple area” refers to the Court of the Gentiles, a space outside the holy inner chambers that was offered to God-fearing Gentiles who, although not converts to Judaism, wished to pray to the God of the Jews. When Solomon built the first Temple, this space was added to the Tabernacle design used in Israel’s wilderness wanderings. It acknowledged their vocation to be a “kingdom of priests” (see Ex 19:6), inviting the whole world into God’s blessing.

Third Sunday of Lent:The Wisdom of the Cross
This Sunday’s gospel put Jesus’ knowledge of our human nature so clearly: He really knew what was going on in men’s hearts.  He knew what they thought.  He saw what they did to the Temple.  The Temple was a place of worship.  It was a place of celebrating the spiritual presence of God in the world.  And they transformed it.  They changed the Temple into a marketplace.  They utilized a system of money changing that robbed the poor people, forcing them to spend extra money for the prescribed practices.  He knew men’s hearts.  He knows our hearts.  He knew that our celebration of his birth at Christmas would be transformed from a day to celebrate the Spiritual Becoming One with Us to a celebration of materialism.  He knew that we would hide the celebration of the Resurrection behind the Easter Bunny.  He even knew that some people would begin their Easter celebrations two days early and have a party on Good Friday (That, to me, is the height of paganism.)

Out of Pride and Into Humility: A Lenten Meditation on a Teaching by St. Bernard of Clairvaux1
In yesterday’s post, we considered the twelve steps of pride set forth by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. In escalating ways, the twelve steps draw us to an increasingly mountainous and enslaving pride.

St. Bernard also enumerates the twelve steps to deeper humility (I am using the list from Vultus Dei HERE)  and it is these that we consider in today’s post. As with yesterday’s post, the list by St. Bernard is shown in red, but the commentary on each step is shown in plain, black text and represents my own poor reflections. Take what you like and leave the rest. To read St. Bernard’s reflections, consider purchasing his book Steps of Humility and Pride.

Value of Time
“Son,” says the Holy Ghost, “be careful to preserve time, which is the greatest and the most precious gift which God can bestow upon you in this life.” The very pagans knew the value of time. Seneca said that no price is an equivalent for it. “Nullum temporis pretium.” But the saints have understood its value still better. According to St. Bernardine of Siena, a moment of time is of as much value as God; because in each moment a man can, by acts of contrition or of love, acquire the grace of God and eternal glory. “Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam et gloriam. Tempus tantum valet, quantum Deus: quippe in tempore bene consumpto comparatur Deus.” (Fer. quarta post Dom. I. quad., cap. iv.)

God From God: The Courage of St. Leander
…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father…

We utter those words at every Mass, words as familiar as the backs of our own hands, and sometimes just as taken for granted.  Intellectually we know that every word of the Creed is there for a purpose.  We know that saints have given their lives defending the truth of those words.  But without the point of reference history gives us, a dry, academic understanding of the Creed fails to burn it very deeply into our hearts.

It is St. Leander of Seville that we have to thank for the inclusion of the Nicene Creed in Mass, and St. Leander we have to thank for the triumph of Catholicism over Arianism in Spain.

What is Heaven?
Then Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, published in 1988, warns against depicting heaven as an extension of this life prettied up with depictions of “lions laying down with lambs,” and eternal picnics. Not only do we have the real problem with the fact that most of the world lives in abject misery, materially speaking—we forget that living in our modern United States of American where “the poor” often means not being able to afford all 2,000 cable channels—but we also must remember that lions, lambs, and picnics get boring after a few million years. These depictions just don’t cut it for the modern, thinking man.

Knock, and the Door Will Be Opened for You
If you’ve ever experienced the power of a novena, you can truly understand these words of Jesus told by St. Matthew in today’s Gospel .

Novenas are often discovered out of despair, when your own attempts for a solution have failed. You discover one that fits your situation and you start praying like mad, knowing there will be an answer. Deep inside we all have something called faith, that awakens when called upon.

The Virtues of Lent
In today’s Gospel at Mass, Jesus describes the righteousness one needs in order to reach the kingdom of heaven, noting that it must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. He discusses the relationship one should have with one’s brother, saying that there is much more to it than simply observing the Old Testament commandment not to kill. It is wrong even to be angry with one’s brother or to call him a fool. Furthermore, Jesus advises us that if we are not at peace with our brother we should make peace with him before offering gifts to God.

To Complete the Suffering of Christ
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.” (Colossians 1:24-26)
This passage, tucked away in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, is perhaps one of the most mysteries passages in the entire New Testament. Nevertheless, I think that if one could take just a little time here to uncover its meaning, he would find a valuable lesson for the season of Lent.

The Seven Deadly Comforts
Throughout history the so-called seven “deadly” or “capital” sins have been enumerated in different ways. Aquinas preferred to speak of the seven capital vices: vainglory, envy, anger, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, and lust (ST Ia IIae q. 84 a. 4). The reason they are called “capital” is because they “give rise” to all the other vices. The common element of all vice is that it deceives one into seeking after evil “on account of some attendant good.” Vainglory, for example, is an excessive desire for honor and praise, which are goods when sought after in the right way and to the right degree. Again, with respect to gluttony, food and drink and nourishment of the body are good things, but the glutton pursues these goods inordinately. So, too, with lust, which involves the inherent goods of sexuality such as preservation of the species. Covetousness seeks after the external good of riches in a disproportionate way. Aquinas notes that it is often out of an exaggerated desire to avoid the evils contrary to these attendant goods that one develops these extreme appetites.

Saddle-Up your High Horse! Time to Shoot Down Myths about the Crusades, the Inquisition & the War on Women
Conservative media were in an uproar last week over the President’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. He said that we see “faith being twisted and distorted … sometimes used as a weapon” and “lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Nearly everyone took the statement to mean “Catholic pot, don’t call the Muslim kettle black.” And they were quick to point out that the “terrible deeds in the name of Christ” were committed 600 to 1000 years ago when everyone was kind of “medieval” anyway. End of story. Only it’s not.

Six Keys to help you Surrender your Life to Jesus Christ
At the center of Mark’s Gospel, the Transfiguration of Christ (Mark 9:2-10) stands prominently as an encouragement along the walk from Baptism to Resurrection; a walk that must pass through the Cross.

Place yourself in the position of the Apostles—they have journeyed with Jesus since he began his public ministry and I am sure that they could not have been more astonished at what they had witnessed since the Lord’s baptism.

Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes, walked on water, calmed storms, healed the sick, cast out demons, and restored a girl from death to life.

He forgave sins of those he encountered. He taught with a compassion, wisdom and authority not previously seen. He turned the world upside down!

And during it all, he faithfully made time to be alone in prayer.

Do You Enjoy Being Miserable?
Let’s face it. Some people enjoy being miserable.

Here’s why:

First of all, it could be that it is simply their personality type. When I ran a business training company before I was ordained we used a personality type program to help people improve working conditions. I soon realized that there were three personality types who gain pleasure from being miserable.

Was a bum buried in the Vatican?
Willy Herteleer was a homeless man who lived in the Borgo — the network of narrow streets north of St. Peter’s Square. He went to Mass every day at the Pontifical Church of St. Anne just inside the Vatican walls. The Catholic News Agency quotes his views about Mass: “My medicine is Communion.”

Willy Herteleer was also known as a street evangelist. As he roamed the streets with his belongings in a pull cart and a cross around his neck, he would stop and ask passersby, “When did you last go to confession? Are you going to Communion? Do you go to Mass?”

Is Beauty a Temptation or a Path to God?
Is it true, prince, that you once declared that ‘beauty would save the world?’

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This oft-quoted line from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot is bold and provocative. Is it possible that beauty, so often misused in the modern world, could save the world?

Ten Catholic Answers to “Why Do You Call Your Priests ‘Father’”?
If you have encounters with non-Catholic Christians you might hope that they will ask you questions that really matter like, “Why do you trust church tradition in addition to the Bible?” or “Do you worship the Pope?” or “What is the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary?”

Unfortunately one of the most common challenges is “Why do you call your priests ‘Father’ when Jesus clearly says, ‘Call no man Father.’ in Matthew 23:9?”

Here are ten answers to this common question.

Czech Priest Witnessed the ‘Cihost Miracle’ and Was Killed for It
ROME — A priest who witnessed a miracle in communist Czechoslovakia in the 1940s was tortured and beaten to death for refusing to recant what he’d seen. And now Catholics from the country are honoring his heroic virtue and pushing for him to be recognized as a martyr.

At a recent gathering in Číhošť commemorating the priest’s brutal death, his current successor at the parish church says he’s grateful for efforts to overturn the decades-long silence on atrocities against Catholics in the 20th century.

Yes, Enoch and Elijah went to heaven
Many Catholics are aware that Jesus “opened the gates of heaven” and allowed the righteous dead to go there.

The Catechism even says it:

CCC 637 In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.

This leads to a question that comes up periodically: What about figures like Enoch and Elijah, who seem to have been assumed into heaven prior to the time of Christ?

Love and the Skeptic
“The greatest of these,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Many centuries later, in a culture quite foreign to the Apostle to the Gentiles, the singer John Lennon earnestly insisted, “All we need is love.”

Different men, different intents, different contexts. Even different types of “love.” You hardly need to subscribe to People magazine or to frequent the cinema to know that love is the singularly insistent subject of movies, songs, novels, television dramas, sitcoms, and talk shows—the nearly monolithic entity known as “pop culture.” We are obsessed with love. Or “love.” With or without quotation marks, it’s obvious that this thing called love occupies the minds, hearts, emotions, lives, and wallets of homo sapiens.

Five Biblical Truths About Fasting
Last week, I asked the question, “Are you looking for the secret to a better, deeper, more joyful life in Christ?” and responded by exploring the reasons for the Catholic practice of self-denial. We saw that “fasting and other forms of self-denial, as spiritual practices of materially subduing and controlling the physical appetites of the body, helps us, by God’s grace, to enable the soul to more perfectly and freely pray.  This leads to a deeper union with God and thus we become better stewards of the gifts God has given to us, freeing us to more effectively care for our neighbor, especially those in greater need than we.” Thus, we have the connection between prayer, fasting and almsgiving—the three pillars of Lent.

Today, I want to provide the biblical teaching on why such practices of self-denial are not just a good idea, but a necessary one.

Is Confession Dead?
The confessionals are empty. The sinners have gone away. Or should I say, “sin has gone away.” Not to be judgmental, but rather to be observant, I sense poignantly a lack of what I would call “sin awareness” among modern Catholics. We seem to have assimilated the secular notion that the concept of sin places outdated, even psychologically damaging restraints on people, or that the feeling of guilt for wrongdoing (or wrong-thinking) is emotionally debilitating. Thus, we see in society the virtual elimination of the word “sin.” We don’t want to hurt anybody’s self esteem. Catholics, perhaps innocently, have bought into this nonsense.

Show Some Love and Punish Your Kids
My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.

In our times, we have tended to set love and punishment in opposition; we also set mercy and punishment in opposition. But this is wrong. It is possible, at least with human beings, that a certain punishment can be excessive. But of itself, punishment (often called chastisement in the Bible) is a work of love and mercy.

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