The 3rd Sunday Lent – March 6, 2021
Lectionary Readings: Ex 20:1-17; Ps19:8,9,10,11; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25
Theme: Following the commandments as the true worship of G-d
The set of readings for this Sunday is quite curious. We read in Exodus the magnificent recounting of G-d giving the commandments to Israel. Understood against the background of Israel’s emancipation by G-d from Egypt and the Pharaoh, as is starkly indicated in G-d’s introduction “I, the Lord, am Your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery,” the commandments serve as a liberating paradigm and the charter of how to live as a free people.
Turning to the Psalm, we read (or sing) about G-d’s laws, precepts, and ordinances. They are described positively: perfect, refreshing the soul, trustworthy, giving wisdom, rejoicing the heart, clear, enlightening, enduring forever, more precious than gold, and sweeter than honey. Again, if taken against the same background, the Psalmist sings about the laws and commandments of G-d bringing freedom and full flourishing. The theme of the readings culminates in the Gospel text
John begins with the account of the cleansing of the Temple. Commentators note that compared to the Synoptic accounts, he places this incident at the beginning of his Gospel rather than as an event right before Jesus’ arrest and eventual death. In the text, he never mentions anything about the law. What he does, however, is describe a display of anger: preparing a whip of cords (which may suggest that he has considered and prepared for this act), overturning the tables of the money changers, driving away the merchants from the temple precinct. His fit of anger then triggers people to ask, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus then says. ‘Destroy this temple [italics mine], and I will raise it up on the third day.”
We note that Jesus’ words and actions are directed towards the temple. The temple is where the worship of G-d takes place. Jesus cleanses the temple from things that might hinder people from truly worshipping. Cardinal Tagle mentions that this action of Jesus turns the people’s attention to the true worship of G-d. It is as if we are brought back to the first reading where G-d declares: “I, the Lord, am your G-d, who brought you out Egypt, that place of slavery; therefore, you shall not have other gods besides me.” Jesus reminds people as to how the true worship of G-d should be: following the mitzvot is the true worship of the G-d who liberates. If G-d has liberated his people Israel from Egypt and all it stands for, the slavery not only by tyrannical authorities but by the false gods of money, pleasure, wrath, inordinate desires, and untruth; then Jesus, true to his identity as a Jew and as the Son of G-d, calls people back to rid themselves of these hindrances, symbolized by the money and the animal sacrifices, and have teshuvah to the true worship of G-d by following the commandments. No wonder, it was remarked in the text which brings everything together, “they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.”
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What hinders us from truly worshipping G-d? 2. How have we mistaken other things to be the worship of G-d instead of following the commandments?
Bibliography: Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, “3rd Sunday of Lent” in The Word Exposed (Quezon City: Jesuit Communications, March 4, 2018), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlaXdgi66kI.
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
John Paul A. Bolano, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumnus 2017