Sunday Church at Home Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

The Purification of the Temple
and the Purification of Ourselves.

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader:    In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

All reply:    Amen

 

Leader:    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All reply:    Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader:     We gather as the coronavirus pandemic continues. We continue to pray that God will keep our hope alive during this time of Lent. The Lord has the message of eternal life: we come to know this message during the Sunday online gathering and we deepen our relationship with our Saviour.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17

 

Introduction to the reading: A covenant is a solemn agreement between two parties in which each promises something.  The book of Exodus recounts how the Jews escaped from slavery in Egypt and made a covenant with God on Mount Sinai.  The heart of that covenant is this: God promises to accept the Israelites as his people.  On their part, they must promise to keep God’s commandments.

 

A reading from the Book of Exodus

In those days:
God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a graven image,
or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above,
or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth;
you shall not bow down to them or serve them;
for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
but showing mercy to thousands of those who love me
and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain;
for the Lord will not hold him guiltless
who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the sabbath day,to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labour, and do all your work;
but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God;
in it you shall not do any work,
you, or your son, or your daughter,
your manservant, or your maidservant,
or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates;
for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it. “Honour your father and your mother,
that your days may be long in the land
which the Lord your God gives you.
“You shall not kill.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house;
you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife,
or his manservant, or his maidservant,
or his ox, or his donkey,
or anything that is your neighbour’s.”

The word of the Lord.

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 19:8.9.10.11 (R. cf. John6:68c)

 

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm.

 

R/. Lord, you have the words of eternal life.

The law of the Lord is perfect;
it revives the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are steadfast;
they give wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right;
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear;
it gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure,
abiding forever.
The judgements of the Lord are true;
they are, all of them, just.

They are more to be desired than gold,
than quantities of gold.
And sweeter are they than honey,
than honey flowing from the comb.

R/. Lord, you have the words of eternal life.

 

Second reading: 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Introduction to the reading: Paul wrote to his Corinthian converts about the difficulty in preaching about a crucified savior.  To Jewish people who looked for a powerful Messiah performing spectacular signs, it seemed unacceptable that the Messiah would suffer and die.  To Gentiles, it seemed entirely absurd that someone who died such a humiliating death could be the savior of the world.

 

A reading from the First letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters:

Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
but we preach Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
but to those who are called,
both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God
and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than people,
and the weakness of God is stronger than people.

The word of the Lord.

 

Glory and praise to you, O Christ
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son; that whoever believes in him should have eternal life.

Glory and praise to you, O Christ

 

Gospel: John 2:13-25

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John

The Passover of the Jews was at hand,
and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
In the temple he found those
who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons,
and the moneychangers at their business.
And making a whip of cords,
he drove them all,
with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple;
and he poured out the coins of the moneychangers
and overturned their tables.
And he told those who sold the pigeons,
“Take these things away;
you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
His disciples remembered that it was written,
“Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The Jews then said to him,
“What sign have you to show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered them,
“Destroy this temple,
and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews then said,
“It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,
and will you raise it up in three days?”
But he spoke of the temple of his body.
When therefore he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this;
and they believed the scripture
and the word which Jesus had spoken.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast,
many believed in his name
when they saw the signs which he did;
but Jesus did not trust himself to them,
because he knew all mankind
and needed no one to bear witness of mankind;
for he himself knew what was in mankind.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Reflection on the Readings 

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily

 

There is the old story about a lawyer driving in a country area to go and see a client. The area was lush with vegetation and as he drove around a sharp bend in the road there was a huge bang – he had had a head on collision with a farmer driving a bakkie. They got out and the farmer took a look at the lawyer, then reached in the back of his bakkie and took out a bottle of whiskey. “Here, you look pretty shaken up,” “Take a nip of this; it’ll steady your nerves.” After taking five or six gulps, the lawyer suggested the farmer have a drink himself. “Not me,” declared the farmer. “I’m waiting for the police.”

Sometimes it can be tough to keep with in the law 😊

 

The Word of God today is asking us to clean out the Temple of our own hearts and to offer to God authentic worship by living according to the Ten Commandments.

 

The Decalogue is the traditional name of the 10 Commandments. The word Decalogue means 10 words. There are a lot of commandments in the Old Testament. Jewish tradition says that there are 613 commandments. We focus on the ten most important commandments – the Decalogue. They are found in 2 places in the Old Testament: in Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21. Today heard the version in Exodus. The first three commandments are about our relationship with God. The remaining seven deal with our relationships with others.

 

The first thing we notice about the reading from Exodus is how many words are included in the first three commandments. This shows their importance. When we go to confession, we always tend to focus primarily about the commandments relating to our relationships with others. That’s the killing, the adultery, the coveting, and the dishonouring of parents, the truth in our dealings with others, the condemnation of bearing false witness, the lying, the manipulation of truth, the fabrication of alternate realities, the spreading of conspiracy theories etc.

 

However, it is the first commandment that takes the largest portion of decalogue. 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. When we treat others, things, achievements, power, wealth, and fame as gods we worship, then the lives we live take a terrible turn for the worse. When pursuit of wealth and achievement consumes us, causes us to forget family, neighbours, and personal health, we are worshipping false gods. That is idolatry. It is so easy for a lifestyle like that to become a habit.  As a result there is no contrition or firm purpose of amendment, no sense of meaning in our life.

 

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 marvellous work. Our entertainment is often vulgar and violent. Conversations are shouting matches in which God’s name is often used as a sledge hammer. The words that we use are often a good indicator of what is in our heart.

Then comes the often 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 more and more shopping. Family gatherings, rest and recreation, 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, a Sunday, Christianity moved the Sabbath observance to Sunday. Sundays become the first day of the New Creation, that first day of the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth.

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.

I tend to think of Jesus preaching and teaching and healing, always calm and serene. It comes as a shock to think of Jesus being so angry that he overturned tables and used a whip on people.

 

What was all that commercial 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 to the Temple cleansing than just abuses of commercial activity. In John’s gospel, the episode of the cleansing of the Temple comes at he beginning of the gospel and at during the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There is an important reason for this. What Jesus is doing is announcing that he is fulfilling Israel’s messianic hopes. He showing that it is the start of the time of the Messiah.

 

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 he 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.

 

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.”

 

We often notice that the people listening to Jesus misunderstood some of his saying. They would fail to look 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 presence.

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 charity 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.

From today’s Exodus reading:

“I am the Lord your God …
You shall have no other gods before me …
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

Reflection:

We’re beginning the third week of Lent. This week is a great time – seven days of examination and prayer. It’s a great time to examine our attitudes and allegiances.

 

So we ask ourselves:

 

  • Who, what is our God?
  • How do we honour his Name?
  • Do we seek the truth or allow empty rhetoric, lies and conspiracy stories to influence my faith?

 

Prayer of the Faithful 

 

Leader:    We ask the Father to share the fruits of the victory of his Son in our prayer.

 

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis: (pause)

that he may continue to be a sign of the truth that cannot be defeated.
LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for a spirit of integrity: (pause)

that we recognize ourselves as servants of God, honoring God’s name by our words and deeds, and never attempting to use God for our benefit

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for an end to violence: (pause)

that God will heal the brokenness in our society that devalues human life and inspire leaders to work toward protecting the innocent and vulnerable from harm.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all who teach and preach: (pause)

that they may faithfully proclaim Christ crucified and lead others into the mystery of God’s love

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for the successful distribution of the Covid vaccine: (pause) that God will guide the delivery of vaccines to where it is needed and give strength to all who are administering it.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time,

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray Antonio Mesquita who died during the week.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

 

And let perpetual light shine on him.

May he rest in peace.  Amen

 

Leader:    Let us pray together our prayer for Lent:

 

Loving God,

during the sacred season of Lent,

bring us closer to you.

Prepare a place in our parish and in our hearts

for silence and solitude,

so that we may rediscover the grace of a prayerful life.

Help us to fast from those things

that threaten the well-being of our bodies and souls;

remind us of the grace of simplicity.

Grant us generous hearts

so that we can give to those in need

and, in so doing,

rediscover the grace of gratitude and generosity.

May this season be a grace filled time

to rekindle a love for you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. 

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader:    Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 

All say:    Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:   

Holy God,
the folly of the cross
mocks our human wisdom,
and the weakness of the crucified
puts worldly power to shame.

Banish from our hearts
every pretence of might and of knowledge,
that by the power flowing from Christ’s resurrection
your people may be raised up from the death of sin
and fashioned into a living temple of your glory.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Amen.

Blessing

 

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

 

Leader:     May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All:         Amen.