WELCOME: to the latest
email recipients of “First Impressions,” the Zoom retreatants from
Blessed Sacrament Parish, Manhattan, NY.
On the Third, Fourth
and Fifth Sundays in Lent the readings from Year A are used when there are those
in the congregation who are preparing for Baptism (the “Elect”) at the Easter
Vigil. Go to our webpage for these alternate reflections:
LENT III (A)
For today’s gospel
story, about Jesus cleansing the temple, we may have to moderate our criticism
against the religious establishment of his day in the light of our own
experiences. For example, in the vestibule of my boyhood parish church the
ushers would sell chances on a new car, a fund raiser for parish expenses. Here
is a really a strange one: as you entered the church, before you went up the
aisle to your pew, adults had to put a dime on a coin table staffed by an usher
– a pew fee. Customs like that weren’t unique just to my parish church.
Throughout the world, at churches and shrines of all religions, there are people
selling paraphernalia and souvenirs. So, we shouldn’t be too hard on those
merchants and moneychangers at the Temple the day Jesus arrived, when he got
indignant and threw them out. It seems no religion is exempt from people hawking
their goods for profit.
What was all that merchandising activity in the Temple area about? The currency
used in daily commercial dealings was the Roman denarius and the Greek drachma.
But the coins bore pagan and imperial images and so were not allowed for paying
the Temple tax. Hence, money changers were a necessary presence to convert the
common coinage to coins that would be acceptable for Temple offerings. Animal
merchants were also necessary because people coming from a long distance would
want to buy animals to offer in Temple sacrifice.
There is more than Temple cleansing in John’s account. He places the episode at
the beginning of his gospel to announce that Jesus is fulfilling Israel’s
messianic hopes. The prophet Malachi (3:1-4) said that at the beginning of God’s
saving work the Messiah would come to cleanse and purify the Temple. Zechariah
had similar expectations, “On that day there shall no longer be any merchant in
the house of the Lord of hosts” (14:21). Jesus’ mission is just beginning and
John is announcing “that day” has arrived, as the prophets foretold and the
people had yearned to see. The Temple cleansing announced the arrival of the new
messianic age. As was foretold, the Lord had come to his temple to replace
former rituals and systems of worship with himself, the new and living Temple.
In Jesus, God’s holy temple, we are invited into the intimate relationship Jesus
had with his Father.
Some of Jesus’ contemporaries might also have taken exception to the market
atmosphere outside the Temple. If they did, they would have interpreted what
Jesus did as a symbolic prophetic action. Recall the prophet Jeremiah’s words
about some people’s Temple pieties, “Has this house which bears my name become
in your eyes a den of thieves?” (Jeremiah 7:11) Speaking for God Jeremiah
criticized those who worshiped in words and gestures, but did not cease
oppressing the poor, committing murder, theft and worshiping pagan gods. “This
rather is what I command them: Listen to my voice; then I shall be your God and
you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, so that you may
prosper” (7:23). Jesus, like the prophet Jeremiah, in words and actions, came to
renew worship and bring all people to God. In Jesus, God’s holy temple, we are
invited into the intimate relationship Jesus had with his Father.
People would not have to go to the Temple to offer sacrifice any longer, for
Jesus’ body is where we meet our God. Jesus the new Temple, by his death on the
cross, has cleansed humanity and freed us from sin’s domination. He tells his
critics, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” A recurring
theme in John is peoples misunderstanding of Jesus’ words, failing to see beyond
the material level to the deeper meaning of what he said. Jesus’ reference to
“three days” points ahead to his resurrection: His body is the new Temple, and
because of Jesus’ sacrifice we are welcomed and accepted into God’s holy
Here is a view those at the altar see at the offertory of Mass. From the back of
the congregation representatives of the community bring offerings of bread and
wine to the altar. The priests and ministers receive them and place them on the
altar. But they are not just bread and wine, are they? They represent the gift
of ourselves to God, in all our human limitations and misdirections. Once placed
on the altar we pray, with the presider, that the Spirit will change the bread
and wine into the body and blood of Christ – and that our lives, represented by
the gifts, will also be transformed into Christ’s body and blood – so that
through our words and actions Christ will be truly present to the world.
In the cleansing story Jesus certainly does not fit with the pious paintings and
statues I grew up with in that parish church. He seems wildly out of control in
today’s gospel. He turns tables over, scatters people and animals. For those who
were there his reason for doing what he did would hardly justify the mess he
made and the disruption in their lives. “Take these out of here and stop making
my Father’s house a marketplace.”
Who is this Jesus and what difference does he make in our lives? John has
presented Jesus having a power given him by God. Previous to today’s account he
had just transformed water into wine and now By his authoritative actions in the
Temple, he is announcing the fulfillment of Israel’s long wait for a Messiah. He
is the ideal Temple and in him God is available to all people.
During Lent we are invited to fasting, prayer and almsgiving. We don’t perform
these works to earn God’s pleasure, or admittance into God’s presence. We
already have that through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. In Jesus the
Temple area is cleansed and ready to admit us. Then, why the recommended Lenten
practices? Actually, they are not just for Lent, they are year-round disciplines
that should open our hearts to those who: can’t fast, because they have no food;
can’t pray because they are pursued, or in danger; can’t give alms because they
have no money to give. Lent is a time for intensive reflection on what we should
be doing all year round: welcoming into our community and attending to those
that our prayer, fasting and almsgiving bring to our consciousness.
Click here for a link to
this Sunday’s readings:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
“In those days, God delivered all these commandments”
In today’s Reading 1,
we hear again the Ten Commandments that God gives to Moses on Mt. Sinai in order
to help the Israelites live in relationship with God and others, rightly and
peacefully; a moral code. Seems easy enough. Well, maybe not so easy, since in
subsequent texts, the Israelites add legislative codes that include rules for
caring for the poor, forgiving debts, welcoming the stranger, and stewardship of
These rules, for how those who are most vulnerable should be treated, are
included in three Legislative Codes in the Old Testament: the Covenant Code
(Exodus 21:1-23:33), the Law of Holiness (Leviticus 17:1-26.46), and the
Deuteronomic Code (Deuteronomy 4:44-26:19). The Codes exist as guides to right
worship and living. Okay, things are pretty much now spelled out.
Apparently not. Because, if the Israelites were following the rules, we would
not have the testimonies of the prophets, such as Hosea, Isaiah, and Amos, who
condemn injustice done to the poor as a sign of Israel’s unfaithfulness.
Throughout the Old Testament: the peoples’ faithfulness is judged not only by
faithfulness to God but also by their treatment of the widow, orphan, migrant,
and those who are poor. We see examples of this in Hosea 4, Isaiah 1; 5; 32; 58,
Jeremiah 5; 7; 9; 34, Ezekiel 18:5; 22; 34; Amos 5:7-17; 8; and Micah 2. Each
describes the result when leaders fail to follow God’s commandments, including
those on social justice. For example, the prophecy of Amos about the fall of the
northern kingdom was tied to his criticism of the misuse and hoarding of wealth
by the upper class while the poorest suffered (5:7-8:6). What makes a person
observe God’s rules or choose to ignore them?
Sister Joan Chittister, in her book, “The Ten Commandments: Laws of the Heart,”
(Orbis, 2006, 11-12) writes that the Ten Commandments are “an adventure in human
growth. We are not so much convicted by them as we are to be transformed by
them. . .All the Sinai Tablets on the walls of all the courtrooms in the land
will not assure us of justice in the courts if we do not have hearts already
shaped by what the sculptures signify.”
We have to live the commandments with our hearts--that is the transformation and
Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the
run. “Faith Book” is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish
bulletins people take home.
today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus answered and said
“Destroy this temple and in three days
I will raise it up.”
During Lent we are
invited to fasting, prayer and almsgiving. We don’t perform these works to earn
God’s pleasure, or admittance into God’s presence. We already have that through
what Jesus has done for us. Rather, our Lenten practices help us see and respond
to those too hungry to fast; too scattered to pray and too poor to give alms.
we ask ourselves:
- Do my Lenten
observances make me more sensitive to those in need?
- Who are they and
how shall I respond to them?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
“One has to strongly
affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that
humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out." ---Pope
This is a particularly
vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. Conditions, even without the
pandemic, are awful in our prisons. Imagine what it is like now with the virus
spreading through the close and unhealthy prison settings. I invite you to write
a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have
not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Michael Braxton
#0043529 (On death row since 11/21/1997)
- Jimmie Lawrence
- John M. Williams
Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the
Catholic Mobilizing Network:
On this page you can sign “The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death
Penalty.” Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death
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1. We have compiled
Four CDS for sale:
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for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
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for “Liturgical Years A, B and C.”
If you are a preacher,
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You can order the CDs
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Impressions” and “Homilias Dominicales,” as well as articles, book reviews,
daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.
Impressions” is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for
Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like
“First Impressions” sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll,
OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
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