Sunday, 7 March 2021 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the third Sunday in the season of Lent we are all called to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter, that now as we are already halfway through this season of Lent, we should make good use of the time and opportunities given to us so that we can be ready not just to celebrate the occasion of Holy Week and Easter, but even more importantly, we may become better and more faithful disciples of the Lord.

In our first reading today from the Book of Exodus, we heard of the Lord revealing His Law and commandments to His people through Moses, His servant and the leader of the Israelites during their time journeying out of the land of Egypt in the Exodus. The Lord revealed His Ten Commandments, which I am sure we are all familiar with, as well as many other laws and rules that were recorded in the Books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, especially in the Book of Leviticus.

All of this happened as the Lord renewed and established the Covenant between Himself and the people of Israel, those whom He had called and chosen to be His own people, at Mount Sinai. The Lord specified each one of the most important Ten Commandments, beginning with the first and most important Law and Commandment of all, that is to love the Lord and honour Him with all of our heart, our might and strength, and with all of our whole being.

The first three of the Ten Commandments specified the Law that is focused on our reverence and love for God, stipulating that as those whom God had called to be His people, we are all bound to love the Lord and worship Him alone, glorifying and honouring His Name, and honouring the day and time that He had set aside for us to spend with Him, the Holy Day of the Lord, which used to be called as Sabbath and which we now keep on Sundays as our Holy Day for the celebration of the Sunday Mass.

Then, the other seven Commandments beginning with the commandment to honour our father and mother, are focused on our relationship with one another, and how we are supposed to love our fellow men, just as much as we love God. And as a whole, the entire Ten Commandments had to be honoured and obeyed as a whole, which means that we cannot truly love God unless we also show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, and neither can we truly love one another unless we have that genuine love for God.

Then we heard in our Gospel passage today of the account of the moment when the Lord Jesus came to the Temple of Jerusalem and cleared it from all the corrupt merchants and money changers who were doing their business in the courtyard of the Temple. The Lord was furious that all of those merchants and money changers were openly doing their business and cheating the people of their hard-earned money right at the very place where God Himself placed His dwelling in this world.

While business itself by its nature is a profit-seeking action, but it was likely given the context of the time, that the merchants and the money changers had been charging the people unfairly for their services, meaning that they gained extra profits from what they sold and through what they did in the selling and money changing efforts. It is this unfairness in the actions those people took which led to the Lord striking them out of the Temple for their vices and injustice.

The merchants were the ones who sold the animals and the goods for the ritual sacrifices in the Temple, while the money changers were essential because at that time the Jewish diaspora was truly large and extensive, with many Jewish people living in far-off foreign lands and therefore had currencies of various origins that needed to be changed first into the ones recognised by the Temple. Otherwise, those foreign coins and money could not have been used for getting a proper sacrificial offering, and the offering would be unclean and unworthy.

With this context, we can see how not only that they unfairly did their work and business on the disadvantage or loss to the customers who came to them, many of whom had come from distant lands, but since many of them required the services of both money changers and the merchants, then they were unjustly treated not just once but twice of their hard-earned money. And this is in fact in direct violation of the Ten Commandments as mentioned earlier in our first reading today.

When those merchants and the money changers cheated their customers, it was a violation of the Commandment of the Lord, ‘Do not steal’ and ‘Do not covet what belongs to your neighbours’ among others. And not only that it showed contempt on one’s fellow brothers and sisters, a disregard of the commandments regarding our relationship with our fellow men, but even more so, by what had happened, they had disobeyed the Lord, tarnished His Name and the holiness of His Name and sanctuary.

Why is that so? By committing all these heinous deeds in the courtyard of the House of the Lord, they disrespected the sanctity of God and His holy Presence. They had also put their love of money and worldly pleasures above their love of God and they had idolised money and material wealth, and turned away from the Lord and His Law. And the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, by their approval of such actions blatantly taking place for so long, likely driven by business and greed, by worldly considerations, also had a share in the blame.

As the Lord cast out all the merchants and the money changers from the Temple courtyard, He also told the chief priests and the elders who challenged Him and questioned His authority of doing all those things that He would destroy the Temple and then raise it up again in three days. While those who listened to Him really thought that Jesus was referring to the physical Temple of Jerusalem, He was in fact referring to Himself as the Temple of God, as He is the Son of God and Son of Man, where the Divine Word has been incarnate in the flesh, and born as Man.

And it is a prefigurement of the crucifixion, when the Lord would lay down His life and therefore destroyed in that physical self through death, the destruction of the Temple as mentioned, and which was also symbolically represented by the tearing of the veil of the Holy of Holies when the Lord died on Good Friday. All of these served to show that the Temple is no longer just the physical Temple in Jerusalem, but in fact is referring to the Lord Himself, present in the Church and in all of us.

How is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord reminds all of us that as we are all part of the Church, the same Body of Christ, partaking in the Eucharist which is Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood, we have ourselves become the Holy Temple of God’s Presence. St. Paul spoke of our bodies being the Temple of the Holy Spirit and how we should keep it immaculate and clean, pure and free from the corruption of sin through our genuine faith and dedication to God.

There we have the Temples far better from the Temples of Solomon and Herod, for while the latter were built by the hands of man from stone, wood, silver and gold, our bodies as the Temple of the Lord were crafted and made by God Himself. Yet, unfortunately, through sin we have allowed its corruption to make these Temple of our bodies to be corrupted and filthy, unworthy and unbecoming of the dwelling place of Our Lord and God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why during this season of Lent, and through the reminders of our Scripture passages today, we are all called to return to the Lord and obey His Law once again. Just as the Lord cleared the corruption of the Temple, the wicked merchants and money changers, we are also called to clear our own Temple, our body, mind, heart and soul from the corruption of sin. We have been given this reminder and the opportunities to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy because the Lord truly loves each and every one of us.

What shall we do then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Shall we be like those chief priests and the teachers of the Law who only obeyed the Law superficially and not with genuine intention and commitment? Shall we be like those who were only concerned about the external and superficial faith? Or shall we be genuine in our faith and commitment to God, in our love for Him and our desire to serve Him, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all discern carefully our path forward in life that we will not lose our way easily amidst all the temptations present in this world. Let us all make good use of this season of Lent to rediscover our faith in God and our love for Him, purifying ourselves from all the corruptions of our sins, from the temptations and the allures of worldly desires and ambitions among other things.

May the Lord help us and strengthen us in this journey, that we may indeed be faithful to Him and be genuinely committed to the Commandments and Law that He has bestowed on us. The Lord has given us the guidance and the path for us to follow through the Law, and therefore, let us all endeavour ourselves to be good and even better Christians from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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