ON THIS THIRD SUNDAY IN THE SEASON OF LENT we are given in today’s first reading the Ten Commandments, so that we might examine our conscience to determine whether our lives reflect our living the Ten Commandments – and indicator as to how we treasure God’s laws for right living. In this world where many adopt an “anything goes” attitude, we are reminded that the Ten Commandments are a concrete means by which we can determine if we have truly hated sin like God does or instead loved it, or flirted with it, or come to peace with it. Sometimes people with a wrong idea of God and His love and mercy think of the Ten Commandments as “ten suggestions” – simply as ten things that would be good for us to do, but strictly speaking don’t have to do, because we envision God as an indulgent grandfather who just “loves us too much” not to overlook our infidelities and take us back every time. Or we can think that God really does not expect us to keep all Ten Commandments, but is satisfied as long as keep, say, seven out of ten, or five out of ten, or even three out of ten. We can start to give in to the temptations that Satan constantly dangles in front of us and to deviate us from not following the Ten Commandments and say, “So I don’t come to Mass every Sunday; so I place sports and brunch above keeping holy the Sabbath; so I tell a few lies; so I use God’s name and curse words every once in a while; so I’m coveting what someone else has; so I haven’t responded to my parents in love; so I’m sleeping or living with someone to whom I’m not married; so I cheated on that test or on my taxes a little bit…” And on and on. Rather than lull ourselves into a false sense of security, let’s be honest with ourselves, folks. The point of today’s readings is that each of these types of sins does tremendous harm to our temple and to not to focus on them is an indication of us possessing a lukewarm love of God and of a lack of hatred for the things that killed Jesus and can kill us spiritually as well. Yes God loves us, and Jesus loves us, too. But the question is: do we love them? If we love God, we will choose to follow God’s way – God’s commandments – not the way of the world. We will follow God’s divine law, now the laws created by human beings or legal decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that “make legal” so many things that are contrary to the laws of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to drive those attitudes and sins from our lives this Lent and beyond! We need to remember that God’s laws are supreme to any human law, rule, mandate, policy, or executive action, and certainly to any human legal decision (God is the supreme law giver and supreme judge, after all). And if we find ourselves listening to the ways of Washington more than the ways of God, then this is the type of cleansing each of us deep down knows we need. And with Christ at our side, we can drive those sins from our temple. In the second reading today, St. Paul says that he preaches not a radiantly beautiful Christ crowned with diadems sitting on a golden throne, but rather “Christ and Christ crucified.” When we look at Christ crucified on the Cross, we realize two things. The first is just what our sins do and why we have to hate them. Our sins killed Jesus. As the saints and popes have said throughout the centuries, it wasn’t really the Romans and the Jewish leaders who killed Jesus, it was us through our sins, for which he died. Every time we have choose to sin, say, in essence “Give us Barabbas!” in some disguise, and to ask for Barabbas is to crucify Christ. Whenever we lie, or steal, commit a sexual sin, or put something as a greater priority than God and Mass on Sunday, whenever we blaspheme or deliberately curse, disrespect parents or those in authority, covet, hate, or refuse to forgive, we say, “Let Him be crucified!” When we realize just what our sins have done to Christ and do to us, how they kill Him and kill us, kicking God out of our temple — like taking the tabernacle filled with the Eucharist and tossing it out on our downtown streets — we begin truly to hate sin. But that’s only the first lesson of preaching Christ Crucified. The second is the flip side, the incredible love of God who died to save the lives of those who were killing him by sin. God loved us so much, St. Paul says, that while we were still sinners, He, the Innocent One, died for us (Romans 5:8). His mercy and love are even greater than our sins! No matter how great our sins, Christ will forgive us when we turn to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Folks, if we turn away from our sins — if we truly hate the sins we have committed, or our sins of omission — and turn to Him through the priest (the Catholic priest acting in persona Christi, in the person of Christ) to be forgiven, Jesus Christ is ready, this Lent, to clean out our temples, to make them sparkle again as temples of God, to help us undergo a radical transformation, to be forgiven of our sins, and with His graces face the challenges and temptations of sin, to turn away from sin, armed with the timeless truths of the Ten Commandments and Christ’s teachings. Instead of whipping us, Jesus hopes that we get the lesson of today’s Gospel and go to Him with repentance ahead of time, in the sacrament of reconciliation. Christ crucified is the “power and the wisdom of God.” Even though the Cross is a scandal to many, to Christ’s faithful it is the manifestation of God’s love for us sinners. The same Jesus whose hands were tied a cord to drive out the money changers were later nailed by ours to a Cross to free us from our sins. The crucified Lord now extends those gloriously scarred risen hands to us and invites us to trust in Him, to take His hands and allow Him to lead us to the confessional. This is where we will encounter, in a person, the power, the divine wisdom, the divine mercy, and the infinite love of God.
Posted in: From the Rector