Lubem, [7 Mar 2021 at 3:13:47 am]:
Homily for III (3) Sunday of Lent Year B. 07-03-2021 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm: Psalm 19: 8, 9, 10, 11
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
Gospel: John 2:13-25
We are presented with the ten commandments otherwise known as the decalogue in our first reading of today. These are not a set of harsh rules but a clear invitation to Israel of old and us today, showing us the path to follow to be God’s people. The ten commandments form the basis for Israel’s ethical code, symbolic of the guidelines for living under divine protection and in the company of the Lord. It was these commandments that became expanded into the 613 precepts of the law in practice even during the time of Christ; with 365 negative commandments corresponding to the number of days in the solar year, and 248 positive commandments corresponding to the number of bones and main organs in the human body. And one can only imagine how difficult it would be to remember all 613 precepts, let alone keep them. Little wonder then why the lawyer approached Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40, though setting for him a trap, to ask which is the greatest commandment of the law. However, a careful look at the decalogue reveals clearly that the first three commandments obligate us towards God, while the last seven obligate us towards our neighbour. This means love of God comes first and is the basis for love of neighbour. That is why Jesus using the Shema, summarizes the whole law into love of God and love of neighbour. And the fullness of this is expressed in the mystery of the incarnation where we find the meeting point of Divinity with humanity in the person of Christ, culminating in the greatest act of love with Christ’s death for us on the cross. Oh! How God loves us. But do we love Him and our neighbour as much? If we do, our ways would be compatible with His, but if we don’t, we would run into conflict with Him like the sellers and the money changers in the temple that we find in the gospel of today.
The controversy we witness in the gospel reading is about clash of values. Our values determine the manner in which we think and act. If you wish to keep close to God and dwell under His company, you must behave in a manner compatible with God’s own nature. God’s priorities come in an order opposite to the priorities of the world. The priority of God as we see in the gospel reading is that putting God first, everything serves its purpose without violation. And the truth is, we cannot know the limits of ‘permissible behaviour’ without relying on God’s compass who made us and knows us even more than we know ourselves. He has fixed the boundaries of existence for us too, and it is here we notice that the sellers and the money changers today fell short of God’s standards because they had replaced God with love of money. This is idolatry. What are your priorities? Are they defined by Godly standards or by worldly standards? Without God we cannot even know ourselves let alone know what is right for us. How wise it is to follow His ways.
As it was with the temple authorities at the time of Jesus, many are also guilty of commercializing religion today. They use it for profit making rather than for the salvation of souls. The truth however is, where the love of God does not come first, we fall into idolatry and cannot value people and treat them as ends in themselves; but only use them as means to our ends, including ourselves. Hence Christ teaches us in Matthew 6:33 ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God, and every other thing will be added unto you.’ But are we seeking first God’s kingdom or the earthly kingdom? Many of us today have allowed the world to determine our value system and the modern culture to set our priorities. Man’s greatest motivation today is to make profit at whatever cost because many operate on the impious principle of ‘get rich or die trying.’ And with the modern secularist culture, we readily sacrifice anything and everything to get wealth, power and fame. This too is idolatry, and it has led to a gross loss of the sense of sin today. The consequences are that we have devalued ourselves and profaned our bodies which are the new temples of the Holy Spirit where God dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19). We exploit everything including our bodies for the sake of pecuniary benefits.
Today, the human person has become a commercialized commodity that is bought and sold through human trafficking, for the purposes of forced labour, sexual exploitation, extraction of organs or tissues, e.t.c. all for money. Ranking as the third largest crime industry in the world after drug dealing and arms dealing, human trafficking according to the International Labour Organization (ILO report), is said to generate $150 billion annually. With this, it is reputed to be the fastest growing activity of transnational criminal organizations, and it is no longer strange why all ‘efforts’ to combat it are not yielding much results…it has many shareholders. It is in the same vein that decriminalization of prostitution has entered into the legislation of many countries giving rise to child exploitation as people pay to rape underage children in the name of “sex workers.” All these are violations of our bodies which are the temples of God, the reason why St. Paul enjoins us all to flee from sexual immorality so that we can glorify God in our own bodies through righteous living. This is why Christ speaks of Himself as the true Temple today. It means God is no longer to be confined to a house of worship (temple), but that He now dwells in us, the new Temples of the Holy Spirit. And Christ’s action of cleansing the Temple today is prophetic of Him as the Lamb of God whose blood cleanses us in sacramental confession and makes us holy temples fit for God’s dwelling. Ask yourself today, do you treat your body as God’s Holy Temple? When last did you go to confession? Go to Christ today in the confessional. By His death on the Cross, He has reconciled us to God and Himself, therefore He can cleanse us of all our impurities.
As St. Paul says, for those who seek miracles like the Jews, this is an obstacle, while for the Greeks and pagans who seek wisdom, it is madness. But for those who have faith, we preach Christ crucified who is the power and the wisdom of God. So, for you, who is Christ? Do you seek Him through miracles or wisdom? Know that others will laugh, mock and doubt you because they seek empirical and rational proofs of what is beyond scientific proof. Do not be discouraged. That is why St. Thomas Aquinas says “to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” Only follow Him without wavering, remembering the words of the psalmist today, ‘You, Lord, have the message of eternal life.’ May the Lord give us the wisdom to obey His commandments so that we can put Him before every other thing and fiercely defend His “Holy Temple” from desecration. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.