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Contents: Volume 2 - LENT III (B)
- March 7, 2021

 

  LENT

  III

   2021


 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP
2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller
3. -- Brian Gleeson CP
4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ
5. --(Your reflection can be here!)


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Lent 3 A 1st Scrutiny

Even though we are still re-balancing remote vs. in-person and even hybrid events, the Lord is still calling many closer to goodness and "church" through RCIA programs. The Sunday readings used in these programs during Lent are so very rich and they are applicable both to those new inquirers into the Catholic faith as well as veteran believers. This Lent in particular, after a year of trials with the pandemic, seems to be one in which "scrutiny" is a good idea for us all.

Today's reading from the Letter to the Romans talks about faith, peace, grace, and hope. Those four things are strong pillars of a sound foundation for a solid Christian life. Where are we, individually and collectively, with our understanding and implementation of them right now?

The rest of the same reading is a mini-refresher course of sorts, one that reminds us so strongly of the love of God. Many of us seem to need that right now, plus a double dose of hope, for ourselves and for those around us. "Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

It is helpful to view the first and third readings through the lens of this love and hope. We can then better respond with a resounding "YES" to the internal question valid even today:
“Is the LORD in our midst or not?” . We can base our hope on Jesus's statement: “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

May we all continue to know the Lord's presence as well as those abundant graces in times when hope is needed the most.

Blessings,
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
lanie@leblanc.one

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Third Sunday of Lent March 7, 2021

 

Exodus 20:1-17; Responsorial Psalm 19; 1st Corinthians 1:22-25; Gospel Verse John 3:16; John 2:13-25

 

The readings this Sunday are really complex. Moses brings down the ten commandments telling us the rules by which we are to live our lives. In John’s gospel, we learn that we shouldn’t commercialize our religious buildings and rituals. That’s all well and good. We can easily affirm this without applying it to ourselves. Then we’ll walk away feeling justified and righteous. We can easily reject any challenge to our thinking, our allegiances, our living values. After all, we don’t buy and sell or exchange money for Catholic money supporting the church – well, except for that gift shop where the mark-up helps support the parish, operated by un-paid volunteers. And we all know the ten commandments – even though our church seems to concentrate mostly on sixth and ninth commandments about the morality of human sexuality. Seems we are more interested in sex than we are in God who created human sexuality as an expression of committed love and bonding.

Let’s take another look at these readings. The first thing we notice about the reading from Exodus is how many words are included in the first three commandments. These are directives about our relationship with God. This must be important as it takes more words than any other commandment. Yet, confessors can tell us the sacrament of reconciliation is primarily about the commandments relating to our relationships with others. That’s the killing, the adultery, the coveting, and the dishonoring of parents rules. We tend to forget the commandment that requires truth in our dealings with others. That’s the condemnation of bearing false witness, the lying, the manipulation of truth, the fabrication of alternate realities. Commonly such abuse of that commandment is thought to be good business, great methods of acquiring power, and the predominate tool of politics. Not much honoring of truth in those practices.

It is the first commandment that takes the largest portion of the stone tablets. It sets the foundation of the rest of the commandments. If we keep God as God, then we’ve got a great start to fullness of a life lived in truth, in peace, and in happiness. It’s when we treat others, things, achievements, power, wealth, and fame as gods we worship that living takes a terrible turn. When pursuit of wealth and achievement consumes us, causes us to forget family, neighbors, and personal health, we are worshipping false gods. That is idolatry. That failure of wisdom is a capital denial of truth that rarely finds its way to consciousness. As a result there is no contrition or firm purpose of amendment. In our claim to rugged individualism and its reward in consumerism, we tend to believe happiness and peace are dependent on getting ahead and accumulating. In quiet moments, in times of reflection about our spiritual condition, getting ahead we recognize such attitudes are the worship of a false god who consumes us. Those things become burdens that we must carry and care for.

What about taking the name of God in vain? Our language, our conversations are often laced with lack of respect for the Creator and the Creator’s marvelous work. Our entertainment is often vulgar and violent. Conversations are shouting matches in which God’s name is often used as a sledge hammer. Can we expand our vocabulary beyond explicates?

Then comes that terrible and forgotten third commandment. How do we keep holy the Lord’s Day? Or do we even attempt to keep it holy? In our consumer driven world, Sundays are days when customers can be attracted to malls for accumulation. Family gatherings, rest, time to read, think, and reflect give way to work, cleaning, shopping, and other activities we’re too busy to complete during the week. The Sabbath, in the Jewish tradition, is the seventh day of the week, the day when God rested from his creative work. God used that time to appreciate the goodness of his creation. Since the Resurrection of the Christ on the first day of the week, Christianity moved Sabbath observance to the first day of the New Creation, that first day of the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth.

When we read about the cleansing of the temple of monopolistically priced sacrificial victims and for temple taxation, we tend to focus on Jesus’ anger. The profits of the money changers, of those who trafficked in sacrificial victims were making wealthy men. Pilgrims who thought to bypass the profiteering would bring their victims for sacrifice to the temples. Each had to be inspected for blemishes and defects to be worthy of sacrifice. Those pilgrims soon discovered a collusion between the inspectors and those sellers in their Temple stalls. It was a closed monopoly was established and maintained for the profit of Sadducees and their supporters. The marketplace and money changers were permitted only in the Court of the Gentiles. Gentiles wishing to pray were permitted only in the Court of the Gentiles. Their prayer had to compete with hucksters, the noise of animals, and the stench that came with the animals. In short, the temple courtyard was converted into a marketplace. Prayer and sacrifice were just a part of the economic process favoring the Sadducees.

If we stop with the thought of profiteering by unscrupulous men, we’ll overlook the point of the sign the Jews demanded of Jesus. Jesus identifies himself as the presence of God among the people. The temple where God was present with the Jewish nation. Yet, Jesus insists that after he is destroyed, in three days he will raise up. That made no sense to the Jews who thought he was speaking about the Temple constructed by Herod. They knew the temple was under construction for forty-six years. It was being constructed on the foundations of the Temple of Solomon destroyed by the Babylonians. Yet Jesus claimed he would reestablish that temple in three days.

We understand what Jesus meant because we know he was destroyed, died on the cross and was buried. We know, through the experience of the women who went to the tomb on the first day of the week, that Jesus was not confined to the tomb. Later they saw him, touched him, ate with him, listened, and spoke with him. What this means is this: Jesus is present with us and for us and – this is nearly incomprehensible – BY us. God is not seated, not confined in any temple, in any construction after the Resurrection. God is with us wherever we are, whatever we do, whatever we share with others.

The mystery of the Eucharist – of the totality of the Mass – is revelation of God with us. Recall God, in the incident of the burning bush, names himself as “I am who am with you.” With the Eucharist – that thanksgiving sacrifice – what we do and are is brought to the altar in the offering of our gifts. Those gifts are the result of our thoughts, our work, our relationships and stand for our life in the preceding week. That gift of self is the stuff consecrated by the Holy Spirit, transformed into the Body and the Blood of the Christ. At the communion time we are united to one another and to the Christ when we receive the Body and the Blood of the Lord. So, wherever we are, whatever we do, whomever we encounter, we are the Temple of God to them. We can choose to deny that we are the presence of God for others and the world and its people are the poorer for our denial. The church building is a place where the construction and art help us visualize Christ present among us. We are church, we are called together into community to strengthen the presence of the Christ within us individually and collectively. When we leave the building to return to the world of work, of family, of nation, of the world, we are strengthened by the presence of the Christ with us in assembly.

We think of God being present in the church building, reserved in the Tabernacle as food for our final journey and as a focal point for private prayer. But we forget what Paul tells us in the second reading. In proclaiming Christ crucified, we discover our purpose and meaning. When we walk with the Christ, carrying our daily cross, the pain, the joys, and the stresses of daily life, we build up the Kingdom of God on earth. For the cross leads to the tomb, and the empty tomb to the New Creation that is the Risen One. We cannot allow ourselves to make idols of buildings, of rituals, of gatherings. Those all lead to the Christ or they are wrong and stunt our growth.

We’re beginning the third week of Lent. It’s a great time to examine our attitudes and allegiances. Who, what is our God? How do we honor his Name? How do we rest, reflect, relate to family, and to neighbors? Do we seek the truth or allow empty rhetoric and conspiracy stories to govern our allegiances?

This week is a great time – seven days of examination and prayer. Fasting helps us focus – almsgiving gives purpose and meaning to our saving from fasting.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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PUTTING GOD FIRST: 3rd SUNDAY OF LENT B

 

How much time and space are we giving God every day?

 

Cecil B. DeMille was a famous Hollywood director. After filming The Ten Commandments, he was asked, “Which commandment do you think people break the most today?” He replied, “The first one: ‘Worship no god but me … Don’t bow down to any idol.’ It’s the one Israel broke first, and it’s the one that people still break the most.” He hastened to add that people don’t bow down to idols of metal and stone, but to those of fame, flesh, and money.

Put more positively, that first commandment has been expressed in the Bible, as “love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength”, and “love your neighbor as you love yourself”, i.e., with respect, kindness, and care. Jesus endorsed those three ways of loving. They sum up the meaning of life, which is to become and remain, a truly loving person.

The ten commandments of God have never been replaced or abolished. Nor should they! For they are a map of life for all who believe in God, and the laws of God for living life to the full - with meaning, purpose, integrity, commitment, and contentment.

Once a sincere Jewish man went to his rabbi to seek advice about living an authentic life. “How have you been going so far?”, the rabbi asked. “I don’t think I’ve broken any of the commandments”, came the reply. “But have you kept the commandments?” the rabbi responded. “I mean, have you honoured God’s holy name? Have you kept the Sabbath day holy? How have you loved and supported your parents in their old age? How have you preserved, defended, and promoted life? When did you last show your wife how much you love her? Have you opened your heart to the lonely and the homeless? Have you shared your money with poor people? Have you defended someone being attacked? When did you last put yourself out to help a neighbor in need?” The rabbi was offering him a new vision – not merely to avoid evil, but to do good, and become the best person he could be.

In our gospel today, we see an angry Jesus with a whip in his hand. This image sort of clashes with the usual one of a gentle, smiling, kindly Jesus. It is so different that we might want to dismiss it as fake. It would be a mistake to do so, as It shows another side to the character and personality of Jesus. Of course, he was kind and gentle. But he wasn’t weak. When it was needed, he could be strong and assertive.

We may have been taught that all anger is sinful. In itself, though, anger is just a feeling, and neither morally good nor bad. Still, anger can be dangerous and lead us to say or do bad things we later regret. But when anger spurs us to put right something seriously wrong, it can be a good thing. A blatantly unjust situation should make us angry enough to act. In that case, it can be a loving and helpful response.

On this occasion, the anger of Jesus was the result of his love and reverence for God and his fellow human beings. His actions of driving out of the Temple, the money changers and the sellers of cattle, sheep, and pigeons, was a protest against the commercialization and desecration of the Temple, and the over-charging of the pilgrims. “Take all this out of here,” Jesus said, and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.” But his actions went deeper than that.

First, he was protesting that Israel was keeping its faith to itself, and not sharing it with others. God meant the Temple in Jerusalem to be a house of prayer for all nations, but Israel had restricted non-Jews to the noisy Court of the Gentiles. Jesus was protesting Israel’s narrowness and exclusiveness.

In the second place, Jesus was rejecting and abolishing the ways that Jews were worshipping God. Its daily rituals, and especially its killing and offering of animals, etc, to God, were not what God wants. What God wants is the dedication of ourselves and our lives to God, and the practice of justice, love, and kindness, to everyone in need. God’s messengers, the prophets, had been saying this for ages, and now Jesus too in his action of cleansing the temple, was also calling from everyone, a religion of the heart.

Lent reminds us that God requires us to keep giving God first place in our lives. As Scripture says: “God made us: we belong to God”, and that “in God, we live, and move, and exist.” Without the presence and power of God keeping us alive, we would crumble into dust. So, the ashes of Ash Wednesday came with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” Lent also reminds and urges us to keep sharing our personal, family, and community resources with poor and needy persons. Lent also highlights our need to pursue positive self-improvement, working with God’s amazing grace to become the best persons we can be. So, this wise anonymous saying applies: “Watch your thoughts; they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions, watch your actions … they become your character.”

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Year B: 3rd Sunday in Lent.
“Zeal for your house will devour me.”

I think I told you one time that when I was a deacon, there was a brief period during which I was in charge of altar servers. It was not a success, so they took the job away from me and gave it to a lay-man called Adrian. It was the right decision. Adrian is one of those people who is just naturally very good with young people. He was naturally outgoing, cheerful, down-to-earth and easy to get along with. He liked them and they liked and respected him. Within a few weeks of his taking over, our altar servers’ numbers had doubled, they had started turning up on time for practices and – most importantly – their work on the altar was much improved. And everybody – even me – was very pleased that Adrian had taken over the job and was making a great success of it.

Then one day I happened to be in the church when Adrian caught two of the altar servers chewing gum in church. And he went absolutely berserk. He shouted, he screamed, he yelled at them for – it must have been – ten minutes. And in all that time, he just kept saying over and over again, one thing – “You are altar servers. You are here to reverence God in the Church. You do NOT chew gum in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.”

Well, I thought this was going to be the end. The altar servers would rebel. There would be fuss and bother. The parish priest would get involved. And – worst of all – the result would be that they would give the job back to me.

But, in fact, none of these terrible things happened. Next day, the sun still rose and it became clear that the altar servers respected and followed Adrian more than ever. And that really made me stop and think. And I realized that what the servers respected in him was that he was angry – for the right reasons. He was not angry for anything personal to himself. He was angry for the Lord – for the reverence that is due to God’s house. Zeal for God’s house had actually consumed him.

The whole point of being an altar server is to add reverence to the Mass. Because the Mass is the way in which we as Catholics fulfill the first three commandments.

  • You shall serve the Lord your God

  • You shall have no other Gods before me.

  • You shall keep holy the Sabbath day.

And the reason that we come to Mass is not to hear a wonderful homily – though of course you do, don’t you!
Nor is it to tick-off the God box for the week.
Nor is it to have a warm feeling from worshipping in a supportive nurturing Christian community.
Nor is it even to receive the Eucharist.

All of those are good and important and I say not one word against any of them. But the reason that Catholics come to Mass is to give praise and worship to God. And if we too have enough love for God, then zeal for His House will consume us too.

– But please try not to take it out on the altar servers!

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God and our love for all His Creation.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.


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