Today in our first reading from the book of Exodus we hear the story of the ten commandments. What goes before the ten commandments are years of God’s faithful love and care for the people of Israel. The people of Israel remembered the stories of creation, the fact that God chose them, saved them and led them out of slavery. Today, God highlights what a faithful response to love looks like. The ten commandments are not so much a moral code as they are the response of people who have been loved, chosen, cared for by a faithful God.
In the Gospel reading, John tells us about the chaos that is happening in the temple at Passover. The temple which is the holy place of the People of Israel has been overtaken by people who have little regard for its holiness. It would seem that for these people making money is what is important; the sacred rituals that are taking place have little or no meaning. Jesus clears out the temple, which is a rather shocking display of anger for him. Our attention can get caught here at this unusual display of anger and we can perhaps miss the bigger point of this story. Jesus is the temple. After his death and resurrection, the disciples recalled his words and his actions – they recall his claim that his Body is the temple – the building while important is not it!
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we hear Paul remind the Corinthians of the wisdom to be found in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Crucified Lord is indeed Lord. His death while sad and tragic on the one hand is the best thing that has happened because it has brought life to all. This might sound foolish but it is real and Jesus is the very power of God. We can see it and we can touch it and it can transform our lives. Paul is clear, Christ is the manifestation of God’s power and wisdom.
Congruent – the word means in agreement or harmony – identical. One of the biggest critiques leveled at religious people is this: we are not congruent. We say one thing and we do another.
So often when we do catechesis in the Church we give people information about the dos and don’ts of being Catholic. We get excited when the people we have been teaching are able to share with us all that we have told them. Faith is not first and foremost about information – it is about a relationship. Our first task when people come seeking us out is to help them establish a relationship with the community – the people of God and then help them strengthen their relationship with God. Sadly, many people do not want relationships with Church people or with God – they want what they have asked for – a sacrament, a ritual and the relationship does not matter. Nevertheless, as disciples of Jesus – relationships must come first.
Today, the ten commandments make sense as a response to a God who has gathered a people together. The People of Israel had a relationship with God. If we see the ten commandments as a moral code we are missing the mark. Following the ten commandments is a response to a God who loves us, with whom we have a relationship.
The challenge of the gospel today is to realize that God dwells not in buildings but in people – the people are important. Jesus cleans up the temple but then reminds the people that he is the real temple. As people we bear in our bodies the very life of God. While Churches and sacred things are important – people are more important. While it is good and proper to honor God present in our Church it is equally important for us to treat one another with respect – and not just the people we like or who do things the way we want or the people who are nice.
As the season of Lent unfolds we will affirm our belief in God over and over and over again. We will engage in prayers and rituals. We will fast and give alms and do penance. All of these activities lead us to change; to be more like Christ.
This week, I invite each of us and all of us to choose one person who really annoys us. Could be ourselves – could be a family member or a co-worker, could be a community figure, Church person, a leader/politician or celebrity. I invite us to see that person as made in the image and likeness of God.
Let us nurture ways to demonstrate our love and respect for them. We don’t love and respect people because we like them, we love and respect people because we are made in the image and likeness of God. We don’t love and respect people because they are perfect, we love and respect people because they are made in the image and likeness of God.
Heather McGhee, an American writer has just authored a book entitled, "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together" which takes a look at race in the United States. In the book she tells the story of how in the early part of the 20thcentury, city councils had swimming pools constructed, as a way of nurturing civic pride and giving people a chance to enjoy themselves. The problem was, they were for whites only. When laws changed and people of color were allowed to use the swimming pools many cities either sold their pools to private groups or shut them down rather than have people of color enjoy what they themselves enjoyed. Their attitude was simple, if people of color gain something we lose something. The scriptures today challenge that idea.
To be congruent, if we stand in here and say we love God, then we must go out there and love the people God loves. Is it easy to do? Not at all, but because of our history with God we do this. We know God has created us and redeemed us. We are grateful and so we honor this God who challenges us to be witnesses of love and generosity.
Our Lenten journey continues to unfold. Once again, we read from the Book of Genesis. The story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac is upsetting and it is a hard story to hear. The end of the story where God asks Abraham not to lay his hand on his son and then blesses him is comforting.
In the story we have two images of God. On the one hand we have a God who demands Abraham sacrifice his son and on the other, the image of a God who provides for Abraham and blesses his family. The God who asks Abraham not to lay a hand on his son is so different from the gods of the ancient world. The stories of the gods of the ancient world suggest they do not care or provide for their people; they take from their people and demand sacrifices. The God of Abraham both cares for and provides for his people.
In the Gospel of Mark, we have the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter, James and John are on the mountain with Jesus. Jesus is transformed and the three disciples hear the voice of God, the Father, telling them that Jesus is his Son. This man they have been travelling with and listening to is the Son of God. The idea that the Son of God is walking among them would have been a shocking idea for them; different from anything they knew or believed. The implications of this were simply too much for them to understand. Jesus says, don’t worry, when I die and rise from the dead you will have the whole picture and you will understand. Jesus says, when you experience the resurrection, the Transfiguration will make sense. For now, don’t talk about what you saw. The time for talking will come later.
Paul, reminds the Christians of Rome, that Christ has lived and died for them. Christ’s love for them has brought them to this moment, and Christ’s love for them will shape their future. There is nothing in this world or in the heavens that can separate them from Christ’s love and care for them.
There is much in our lives that is confusing and unsettling. Things happen in government, at work, in the Church, in our family and in our relationships that we find confusing. Sometimes how we understand and speak about God does not help.
Today, the scriptures remind us of how we can deal with the confusion in our lives. They present us with images of God, reminding us of who our God is and what our God does. Our God is about life. Our God does not take from us. God draws us into relationship, God gives life to us, and God looks out for us. Made in the image of God we are invited to care and to give life.
The God of Abraham reminds us that God wants to provide for us. The God of Jesus invites us to listen to his Son, to enter into relationship with him. Jesus walks with us as teacher and friend. The story of Jesus does not end with his death! He is raised to new life. His resurrection changes everything. It will change us too, for we shall also rise to new life.
The early Christian community in Rome struggled to understand their pain and suffering. They believed that their suffering was a sign that Christ had abandoned them. Paul says Christ has not and could not abandon them. Paul says there is nothing in life that can separate you from Christ. Paul invites them to rely on their relationship with Jesus to cope with all that is taking place in their lives.
As we hear these scriptures we are prompted to ask several questions. What kind of God do I believe in?
Do I believe in a God who takes from me or do I believe in a God who provides for me?
Do I believe in a God who abandons me, leaving me alone to face life or do I believe in a God who teaches me, walks with me and raises me up?
What kind of God do I believe in and what kind of God do I talk about?
Today, we are invited to think about who our God is and what he does.
Our God cares about us and provides for us. We matter to God. God does not abandon us. Our failures are not held against us. We are forgiven. We are never alone. We are raised to new life.
As we go about our activities this week:
- let us live our lives knowing that God is as near to us as our breath
- let us look at life through the resurrection of Jesus
- let us believe in the desire of God to renew the whole of creation
- let us believe that God walks with us, seeking ways to provide for us.
As we wait for longer days, for the warming of temperatures, for the birth of new life and the migration of flocks and herds alike, let us also wait for the new life that God offers us. As we encounter one another let us be like our God. Let us nurture life – comforting one another with acts of kindness and blessing.
Today we continue our Lenten Journey. We begin by reading from the Book of Genesis where we hear about an exchange between God and Noah. God says to Noah that a covenant will be created between God and the whole of creation – never again will God destroy the earth as he has just done. God is doing something new from this day forward; God will no longer punish creation. Every time a rainbow appears it is a reminder that God has established a covenant with the earth and with the people of the earth.
In the Gospel, Mark tells us that Jesus is driven out into the desert by the Spirit to deal with temptation, with Satan. Mark tells us he is in the wilderness with wild beasts and with angels. Mark does not tell us what happened except to say that after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus returns and begins his ministry in Galilee. The message of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God is near – repent and believe in the good news. The arrest of John and the beginning of the ministry of Jesus mark the beginning of a new era, a new time.
Peter, in his letter, reminds the early Christians that his faith tells him that Christ has died for his sins but Christ is now alive in the Spirit. The suffering of Jesus is not a punishment from God but rather a sign of the love that Jesus has for His Father and for the whole of creation. Christ’s suffering is a light that leads us to God. Peter tells the Christians that Baptism is not so much about removing dirt, it is about a relationship with God, and all the heavenly host.
In our first reading today God affirms his desire to be in a relationship with us, and not just us, but the whole of creation. Never again is God going to destroy the earth and the inhabitants of the earth. This is the promise of our God, a God who wants us to live. Every time we see a rainbow we are reminded of God’s great love for us – his promise that he will not destroy the earth or us. This idea marks a new way of seeing our God – a God who longs that we might live and have life – a God who will never again destroy the earth as a punishment for our behavior.
Jesus tells the people of Israel that the Kingdom of God is near. He invites them to change their lives – the way they think and act. Jesus seems to suggest that naturally, we are hostile and disrespectful – we need to change, repent and believe in the Good News.
What is the Good News? We are loved by God. Our sins are forgiven. We are alive in the Spirit. We will be raised from the dead.
If we want to support life, if we want to help build up the reign of God we must learn to see the world through the eyes of others. There is a wonderful saying, “Walk a mile in his/her shoes!” Too often we see and we measure others according to our standards – standards we don’t live up to.
Today people are working to:
There are men and women who are opposed to this work – who want things to stay just the way they are. Just this week there was a suggestion to rethink the name of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association to reflect the make-up and diversity of the farmers and ranchers at work today. Good idea, right? It was rejected because the leaders of the Association said the name is just fine as it is. They said there is no need for change despite the fact that there are countless women managing farms and ranches today.
Over a hundred years ago Mary Lathrap wrote a poem – inviting us to see others differently. Mary was a poet, a Methodist preacher, worked for women’s rights – especially the right to vote and own property, and she worked to limit the sale of alcohol. Listen to the language and ideas of a woman from 1895.
“Judge Softly” ~ by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895
“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.
There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.
Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.
Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.
For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.
Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.
I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.
Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.
Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.
Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”
In the Book of Genesis, God makes a covenant with creation and marks the beginning of a new time. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the nearness of the Kingdom of God; he marks the beginning of a new time. In Peter’s letter, we are told that Christ suffered, died and rose so that we might find our way to God.
As our Lenten journey continues, let us walk together towards this new time, seeking to understand what it is like to walk the road that others walk. Let us, with the help of God, shape a new time for our community, our parish, our family.
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI