3rd Sunday of Lent B
Ex 20:1-17; Ps 19:8-11; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25
(Scriptures included after homily)
A rock remembers every word that’s ever spoken to it.
And you can absolutely trust a rock with a secret.
As a mater of fact, sometimes rocks even harbor their own secrets deep within their centers. Inside them, we might find a “treasure of unimaginable value,” a diamond in the rough, an emerald, a ruby. Unfortunately, in order to find that treasure, our rock would have to be destroyed.
Today, this Third Sunday of Lent, our Scriptures describe three different rocks associated with our Faith. The first of these, we’ll call the “Rock of Law.” Sadly today, we tend to associate the word ‘law’ with ‘restrictions to our freedom,’ lawsuits and courts, crooked politicians and parking tickets. But that’s not why or how laws were originally designed.
God did not design the Ten Commandments in order to restrict or punish people, but to bring them freedom. “Oh, we’re not supposed to steal? Wow! Then I’ll never have to worry about being robbed.” “Oh, we’re not supposed to kill? Then I’m freed from the fear of being murdered.” You see, God defined the Ten Commandments because He loved His children so much, that He wanted them to enjoy life and love as much as He does.
These commandments were so important to God and to us, that God engraved them in nothing less than rock, an ‘unimaginable treasure of freedom.’ And if we were to examine all ten of those laws closely, we’d find that they’re all tied together and that all ten of them can be boiled down to just two.
For example: If our hearts were overly desirous of our neighbor’s possessions, our neighbor’s job, or family, or house, or cars, we would be breaking the ninth and tenth commandments. These, what we call sins, ‘sins of thought’, could then lead to ‘sins of action’, like theft, or murder, or adultery; thereby crumbling that Commandment Tablet even further, by the breaking of the fifth through seventh laws.
And finally, being confronted with accusations of what we’ve done, we might lie about it, thereby totally dishonoring our parents who raised us to respect one another. These last two sins would completely obliterate that ‘Rock of our Freedom’, which, just as simply, could have said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And why were we so desirous of our neighbor’s lives in the first place? It just might be that we lost appreciation of our own lives. We idolized God’s gifts, rather than worshiping God alone. And losing sight of our Creator, we may have even blasphemed His Holy Name. Then focusing on our own gain, rather than seeking our Lord, we may have even misused His Holy Day, which was given to us for our own replenishment. Thus, by breaking these first three commandments, we also smashed that ‘Rock of our Strength’, which just as simply could have said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
By demolishing these two “Rocks of Law”, which call us to love God and our neighbor, we submit our lives to slavery, slavery to sin, rather than accepting God’s freedom, the freedom of love. You see, the treasures engraved on those “Rocks of Law” were not just words to be stored in some ark. They were designed to be lived. They were designed to be engraved in our hearts, so that our world could be the paradise that God intended it to be.
Unfortunately, the part of our human nature that we inherited from our earliest of ancestors, our short-sighted, self-preservation of the physical over the spiritual, of the temporal over the eternal, caused us to created our own rock, on which we engraved the word, “ME” instead of “God,” “Me” instead of “Neighbor.”
So, God sent His prophets as reminders. He had King Solomon build a Temple where everyone could remember their Creator and worship God together. This is our second rock, the “Rock of Worship”, our Church.
From the outside, it may just look like another funny building with a steeple, and a bell, and a cross. But, if you dare to peek inside, you just might find – a treasure. And if you think you found that treasure in the Story of the Stained Glass Windows, or the Beauty of the Altar, or the Serenity of the Baptismal Font, you haven’t even come close yet.
Yes, we receive the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. But that’s just the beginning. Stop by the parish office any day during the week, or visit any building on the Church campus in the evening and you’ll discover that treasure.
There’s choir practice and adoration, Stations of the Cross, St. Vincent de Paul and Parish Council meetings. There are Why Catholic group meetings and RCIA, Religious Education classes and Marriage prep. There are school activities, Boy Scouts, Baptism class and Women of Lourdes. There’s Cursillo, Mom’s meetings and Bible studies. There are food collections and distributions, breakfasts and dinners to support the unborn and the widows. There are Youth groups, Young singles, 50+ groups and the Retired-volunteer work group. The list is endless. The available rooms are sparse. And the enthusiasm is contagious. This is the treasure of our “Rock of Worship,” sharing our gifts, sharing our lives with others, all in the Name of Jesus Christ.
This is the treasure that Jesus didn’t find in that Holy Jewish Temple that day. Instead, what He found was the worship of money, the worship of power and prestige. Instead of being engraved in the Name of God, the letters on that Temple Rock read: “M-E.” “Prove to me,” they said, “that you are who you say you are.” “Give me a sign.” “Work wonders.” But the “Great M-E” was insatiable. And Jesus knew well the weakness of Human Nature. It was time to crush that Temple Rock and discover a whole new treasure…
His Words were comforting.
. . . . His Words were enlivening.
. . . . . . . .His Words were like a spring, welling up from inside.
And yet, even this new and physical rock, engraved with the Name, “Jesus,” would have to be crushed in order to reveal the “true treasure,” the Resurrection Hope, the Spiritual Rock, the one Rock that brings ‘Eternal Life’.
There engraved in Blood,
on that ‘Rock of Eternal Salvation,’
are four simple letters:
“L – O – V – E.”
Scripture Readings for Mass of 03-11-12
Third Sunday of Lent
In those days, God delivered all these commandments:
“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. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished the one who takes his name in vain.
“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.”
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
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 fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just.
They are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold;
sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb.
Brothers and sisters: Jews demand signs and 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 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.
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.