Third Sunday Of Lent – Year
March 7, 2021 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Exodus 20:1-17 | Psalm 19:8-10
I Corinthians 1:22-25 | John 2:13-25

+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

How many of you like to garden?  I certainly do!!!  For me, creating a garden is like creating a spiritual sanctuary, a place of calm refuge from the stresses of everyday life.

My love of gardening began when I was a child growing up in New Jersey, which has the moniker “The Garden State”.  We had quite a large backyard and the previous owner of our home, an architect, had invested considerable time and expense designing the backyard to be similar to a Canadian garden with three tiers:  the upper tier had a pathway leading to a sunken area with birdhouses, birdbaths, and stones surrounding it; the middle tier had a pebble pathway in the center with flower beds on each side and a large boulder accenting it; the lower tier was a large oval greenbelt of grass surrounded by evergreen shrubbery.  From about the age of five, I was responsible for tending one of the flower beds in the middle tier where I planted poppies, tulips, and sunflowers.

When my father’s employer, Mobil Oil Corp. Transferred him to Texas, we left New Jersey and our beautiful backyard for a new home with a much smaller backyard.

In the late nineteen-seventies, while I was teaching school, I returned to my childhood home for the first time in many years and wanted to see my garden.  The family who had purchased our home still lived there, and they were very gracious, taking us on a tour of all the new landmarks and retail establishments in Livingston, New Jersey.  But when I finally got to see the backyard I was shocked! the new owners had completely leveled it!: there were no tiers, flower beds, birdhouses,  birdbaths, or shrubbery; just a totally level grassy area.  I was almost in tears upon seeing it, but I did not get angry.  I could feel how Jesus must have felt when he saw the merchants and the money changers at the temple.

Today’s Gospel from John is quite surprising also in that we have never before seen Jesus angry.  It is so unlike Him, the One who is patient, kind, and forgiving.

Some people call today’s Gospel the “temple tantrum” while others refer to it as the “cleansing of the temple.”

Today’s Gospel places the story of Jesus’ action in the temple towards the beginning of His public life, while the other Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke place it towards the end.  But since the Gospels of Matthew and Luke follow Mark’s structure, it becomes a case of Mark versus John.  Another point to consider is that the Synoptic Gospels only tell of one visit of Jesus to Jerusalem, so they could not have placed this event earlier. It should be noted that most scholars follow Mark’s placement.

When Jesus lived on earth, the temple was called the Shekinah of God where God was most present in this world and where God lived in the Holy of Holies.  The temple was treasured by people who went through much pain to finally get to a beautiful temple and be with God and be at peace in their lives.

So now, Jesus walks into the temple and what does He see…a shopping center where greedy people care nothing about the temple’s holiness as they only care about money.  Jesus then drives them out by making a whip out of cords.

In obedience to Exodus twenty, Jesus went to Jerusalem and drove all the merchants out of the temple.  God commanded everyone to never take the name of the Lord, our God, in vain and to keep the Sabbath day holy.  Jesus realized that the purity of temple worship was a matter of honor to God, so He drove all the merchants out, along with their sheep and oxen.  In addition, He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.

Jesus would not tolerate the mockery of the spirit of worship and told the offenders, “Take these things away; stop making my Father’s house a place of business.”

In our second reading today from First Corinthians, Paul explains to us that human beings must have faith and not demand signs as some of the Jews do in order to begin to understand the truth about Jesus.  His death on the cross for human sin and His resurrection cannot be understood by the human intellect, wisdom, or logic.  It must be believed by simple faith.

According to St. Paul, Jesus is the covenant or law and wisdom of God.

In today’s Gospel from John, Jesus demonstrates that He is God’s wisdom and law.  He chases the merchants and the money changers out of the temple since they do not represent God’s interests, but only their selfish economic and social ones.  The temple pilgrims present were only visiting without real devotion to God.

The Church is the house of God and we must not destroy the sacredness of it.

Desecration of holy spaces is an attack of the symbolic meanings of the place.  To wantonly destroy a temple, shrine, church, mosque, synagogue, or even a memorial is to attack the community’s symbol of unity.  It is disrespectful and contemptuous.

On January 6 of this year, the United States Capitol Building was stormed and desecrated by domestic terrorists.  The mob that rampaged the halls of Congress included white supremacists and conspiracy theorists.

The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada condemns in the strongest terms the mob assault upon the U.S. Capitol Building, which was an attempt to subjugate our democracy and the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power after a lawful presidential election.  The attack resulted in desecration, injury, bloodshed, and death in a place that is a national symbol of hope and unity for everyone.

So, what can be done to address the problem of political polarization prevalent today?  Getting to know each other can help reduce prejudice between groups.  Trying to see things from another’s perspective is also key.  Research suggests that those who are more empathic are more likely to consider themselves as being “citizens of the world” rather than belonging to one particular group.

The farther that modern politics sinks into a self-fulfilling cycle of identity-based polarization, the more help we will need.  As revealed to us in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus shapes the destinies of societies and nations, so it will be Jesus who guides us out of this peril.

Jesus also prophesied about His own death and resurrection in today’s Gospel:   “Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up.”  This exact prophecy will soon be fulfilled with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us remember to abide by the covenant given to us by God fulfilled through Jesus.  Our journey is to walk alongside Jesus during Lent and find peace and love, not only for God but also for all living things on earth.