Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Third Sunday in Lent

March 11, 2012
Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25

                Parishes with catechumen who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil celebrate the First Scrutiny today. (An alternate set of readings for Year A can be used: Exodus 17, Romans 5, John 4.)
          Paul's bold proclamation in 1st Corinthians ties the Exodus reading together with John's Gospel reading to make sense of the peculiar aspects of our faith. He describes that the Jews expect unmistakable revelations from God like earthquakes, thunder, and dramatic dreams, while the Greeks rely upon their pursuit of wisdom and rationality to discern patterns of knowledge in the world. Paul, however, says that we Christians appear ridiculous to both the Jews who see us as stumbling blocks and to the Gentiles who regard us as foolish because we preach that our God is a crucified one. Christ is both the power and the wisdom of God and can be worshiped by both Jews and Gentiles. The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than our human strength.
          The Exodus reading begins with God reminding the Israelites that he brought them out of slavery into freedom. Because of that, he asks that they place no other gods, especially hand-made graven images, before him. The commandments place stresses on the first three because they reflect the people's response to God's. I took notice of the third commandment, keeping holy the Sabbath, as many words are given to its importance. Many in society have lost the sense of the Sabbath being a special day reserved for remembrance, thanksgiving, and recreation. For me, it is a time in which I catch up on the activities of the week that I didn't quite get done. This reading makes me consider how poorly or well I use my time. The last seven commandments, while important, deal with the manner by which we respect the rights and privacy of others.

          The evangelist John places the scene where Jesus drives the merchants out of the Temple at the very start of the Gospel. John means to illustrate the role Jesus assumes in the Passover once the Temple has been destroyed. For a Jew, the Temple meant everything and its destruction in 70 A.D. looms in their national consciousness. The Christian community led by John is facing additional displacement. Their Jewish brothers and sisters will not let them worship in their synagogues. John's community are like refugees who have no gathering place. The entire point of this passage is to let Christians know that the Passover can only rightly be celebrated in and through the person of Jesus.

          As a man who always preached the kingdom of God is among us, his worldview conflicted with those dedicated to the Temple. The kingdom of God can be celebrated wherever two or more are gathered in his name because he is present to them. Buildings and locations no longer essentially matter, though they are useful for ritualizing our worship. He means to communicate the Jesus is no more present in a building than outside of it.

          The last sentences of this passage are disturbing. While many began to believe in Jesus because of the signs he was doing during the Passover feast, "he 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." It tells us that "the hour" of Jesus had not yet arrived and that he knew he was the light in the darkness who would be rejected. It shows us that he understood human capacity for fickle judgment, and it was the reason he came.

          When we contemplate how much Christ has done for us, it is staggering. He saves us from despair and gives us hope in our darkest hours. I always like to turn around the questions that St. Ignatius once asked Christ on the Cross. Instead of asking: What have I done for Christ, What am I doing for Christ, and What am I to do for Christ, I ask: What has Christ done for me, What is Christ doing for me, and What will Christ do for me. I become silent in gratitude. I praise the Crucified Christ and the wisdom of God.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  In 2 Kings, Namaan, the army commander of king Aram, contracts leprosy and is sent to the king of Israel for a cure. Elisha intercepts him and instructs Namaan to wash seven times in the Jordan River. After protesting, he decides to wash. When he is cleansed, he proclaims "there is no God in all the earth except in Israel." In Daniel, Azariah contends with the Lord imploring him to remember the covenant and his promise of mercy. He calls for deliverance for the people are without hope. In Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to the people urging them to follow the commandments the Lord gave to them for they bring life, prosperity, and happiness. If they stray from the path, they will undergo trials they do not want or expect. Jeremiah tells the people they will prosper if they do what the Lord commands. They do not listen to Lord's word for their hearts became hardened. Hosea hears from the Lord that he will heal their defections and once more bring them back into the fold. The people are to seek wisdom to understand what the Lord asks of them. Hosea asks the people to return to the Lord for in the deepest part of the Lord's heart, he cares deeply for his people.

Gospel: In Luke, Jesus tells the people that a prophet is rejected in his hometown. He told them that Elisha the prophet was not sent to lepers in Israel, but to Namaan the Syrian. When Jesus is asked about the extensive nature of his teaching on forgiveness, the tells them to parable of the king who settles his accounts with his servants. As the king forgives debts, the people are to imitate him. In this case, a forgiven servant beats up on another servant who owes him a debt. Jesus tells them that he has not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to bring them to fulfillment. When he drives out a demon from a mute man, his adversaries accuse him to getting his power from Beelzebul. He says that as he is working against Beelzebul, he certainly cannot be invoking his power because a divided house cannot stand. One on the scribes then approaches Jesus to ask which is the first of all the commandments. After he replies correctly, Jesus affirms him and tells him he is not far from the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then addressed a parable to those who were assured of their righteousness. He told them of the Pharisee and the publican. The latter understand what it meant to be remorseful and to depend on God.

Saints of the Week

March 17: Patrick, bishop (389-461), is the revered Apostle of Ireland and patron saint of many U.S. dioceses. He is credited for bringing the faith to all of Ireland. He was abducted and enslaved at age 16 by pirates and taken to Ireland where he worked as a cattle herded and shepherd in the mountains. He escaped after six years and eventually returned to his native Britain where he became a priest. Pope Celestine sent Patrick as a missionary to Ireland to evangelize them. Though he was under constant risk from hostile pagans, he converted many of them and developed a native clergy by the time of his death.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Mar 11, 1848. In Naples, Italy, during the 1848 revolution, 114 Jesuits, after much suffering, were put into carts and driven ignominiously out of the city and the kingdom.
·         Mar 12, 1622. Pope Gregory XV canonized Sts Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri.
·         Mar 13, 1568. John Segura and five companions set sail from Spain for Florida, a fertile field of martyrs. (Nine Jesuits were killed there between 1566 and 1571.)
·         Mar 14, 1535. Ignatius received his degree from the University of Paris.
·         Mar 15, 1632. The death of Diego Ruiz, a great theologian, who studied on his knees.
·         Mar 16, 1649. The martyrdom in Canada of St John de Brebeuf, apostle to the Huron Indians. Captured by the Iroquois along with some Christian Hurons, he endured horrible tortures.
·         Mar 17, 1964. The death of Joseph O'Callahan. He was awarded the US Medal of Honor for heroism as chaplain on the USS Franklin, off Japan on March 19, 1945.