Third Sunday of Lent “B” – Fr. Rick Sherman
Ex 20:1-17; 19:8-11; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25
March 7, 2021
Catholic Relief Services collection next Sunday. Website crs.org – gift catalog
Some years ago there was a story made known fairly publically of a well-known actress who was caught several times while shoplifting. She certainly was not short of cash, but could ‘not help’ taking shoes, cosmetics, jewelry and other items from stores without paying for them. I’m not sure if it’s a clinical term, but this behavior used to be called that of a kleptomaniac. As she proceeded through increased self-knowledge and ‘recovery’ she shared her experience publicly to help others with this rather frightening condition. Can you imagine going into a store and never knowing when you would have this uncontrollable urge to steal something? Can you imagine the ongoing conscious and subconscious anxiety that would come with this condition? Most of us can probably recall being with our parents at a young age or observing younger siblings taking a piece of candy that just so happens to be conveniently located at the checkout area of the grocery store. The child probably had to be reminded several times that you have to pay for candy before you eat it, or even better, you have to ask mom if you can have the candy in the first place. We were probably told that it was stealing and we can get in trouble with the police and/or it was breaking the 7th Commandment. After being instructed 57 times we could finally go into a store without worrying about the police or being liable to God on judgement day.
In a simple example like this we can see the real value of God’s Commandments as gifts of Divine Wisdom; laws of Love. It’s not just a list of things we should do or NOT do in order to avoid jail time or eternal hell. These laws help free us from unnecessary anxiety and conflict and confusion. Certainly the same can be said for lying. Once we get in a habit of shading the truth we are in a constant state of wondering what we said the last time or what we said to a different person. Flirt a little with adultery and you can compound the anxiety and interpersonal pain by about 100 fold.
Keeping holy The Sabbath is easily one of the greatest gifts of Wisdom and Love. God COMMANDS us to keep holy the Sabbath, not just to disrupt our Sunday recreation, but because we NEED the Mass. We are relational creatures and are wired for the type of spiritual oneness that can only be experienced within the sacrament of the Eucharist. When we don’t satisfy this real need for spiritual oneness we will likely try to channel all our ‘ONENESS’ needs through some type of physical expressions of intimacy. This gives us the social and relational catastrophe we see all around us. Recovering addicts often say that they ‘needed more and more of what didn’t satisfy.’ Surely sexual acting out reveals this same experience of anxiety and social alienation, pain and frustration.
Staying faithful to our Sunday commitment to Mass is essential to holy and healthy living. The THIRD COMMANDMENT. Just like we can snitch a handful of candy or cashews in the bulk bins at the grocery store or ‘borrow’ a wrench from work or a few pens from the office, little by little our sense of propriety becomes jaded and we become spiritually weakened. In my younger years before I went to the seminary I always went to Mass on the weekend, usually on Saturday night so Mass wouldn’t clutter up my Sunday mornings when I liked to read the Sunday paper in a coffee shop and then go hiking or something. I was hardly a stellar disciple to say the least. I could rationalize just about any of the commandments effortlessly. BUT, at least staying connected with the Mass also kept me connected with the local priest whom I usually got to know at least a little. I always had this basic anchor of identity that had a longer and deeper history than my most recent circle of friends. I was at least subconsciously reminded that there is a mysterious and sacramental aspect of life that is just not available in the purely human realm. Church and Mass were different. Then later when I really felt the need to develop a deeper spiritual life I didn’t have to undergo a frightful or alien re-entry. I didn’t have to relearn when to sit, stand or kneel. I didn’t have to relearn how to follow in the missalette or where the confessional was and how to receive Communion. It is essential that we not lose track of the sacred and the sacramental.
Jesus is demonstrating this essential need to keep holy the Sabbath and to keep sacred the Temple with His very intense response to the emerging marketplace in the temple. He wasn’t opposed to money changing for the purpose of buying sacrificial animals or the practice of bringing animals for sacrifice; He just didn’t want it done IN the temple. There are different levels of sacred in life and temple space, church space, needs to be kept special. It’s for our own good so that ultimately we don’t ‘shortchange’ our own value as people of sacred origin and sacred destiny.
Lent is a sort of ‘time out’ to rediscover the sacred. This (Yesterday) morning in the Diocesan Virtual Lenten Retreat Bishop Solis stated that ‘Lent is not so much a time when we do something special for God, but rather it’s a time when we let God do something special for us.’ BUT, we have to give God our time and attention. We need to make our personal temple space, our soul space, especially available to God’s mercy, wisdom, love and miracles.
Please take the opportunity to spend some time with the Lord at Adoration on Thursday afternoons from 4 to 5, daily Mass at 8 AM or Stations of the Cross on Fridays at 6PM. These are excellent times to reconnect with the sacred that is our most natural state.