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Scripture Study: Third Sunday of Lent

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By Marc Massery (Mar 2, 2018)
Find the readings for this Sunday here.

Sunday, March 4 — Third Sunday of Lent
Exodus 20:1-17
• Psalm 19:8,9,10,11
• 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
• John 2:13-25


On my way back from a business trip in northern New Jersey, I fell victim to one of the dumbest mistakes a millennial can make. I was trying to visit my friend who lived on Long Island, which was east of me. He texted his address to my smartphone. I clicked on it and let my GPS do the work. As I followed the robotic voice of Siri, I passed sign after sign saying that I was traveling south. I ended up somewhere in the middle of New Jersey dozens of miles in the opposite direction of where I intended to go. It turned out that my buddy did not include the name of the state when he texted me, so the address I clicked on sent me elsewhere.

Though I had plenty of signs warning me where I was going, I was too set in my overly-reliant-on-tech ways and got lost. In the Gospel this weekend, Christ reveals the sign that will indicate His authority as Messiah. But only those paying attention recognize it.

In the Gospel, Christ reveals His righteous anger in a most memorable way. He makes a whip out of cords and drives the vendors and money changers out of the Temple. During the Passover, millions of Jews from all over the world would come to Jerusalem to worship. Since most Jews were required to pay a Temple tax, and since pilgrims came from everywhere with different types of currency, money changers set up shop right in the Temple. But of course, they charged an exorbitant amount of interest on each exchange.

Animal vendors also worked in the Temple selling oxen, sheep, and doves for sacrifice. Of course, they also took advantage of the pilgrims, charging at least 10 times more than any vendor outside of the Temple. So in His anger, Christ pushes over tables and drives them all out. This action foreshadows how His death and Resurrection would dramatically change worship in the future. Soon, there would be no more Temple tax, no more animal sacrifice. His sacrifice on Calvary would be the sign that changed everything.

After Jesus caused such a ruckus in the Temple, the Gospel records two different reactions. The disciples remembered Psalm 69:9, "Zeal for your house will consume me." Christ's actions confirmed for them that He was truly the Messiah.

The Jews, on the other hand, questioned His authority and asked for a sign. In the second reading, St. Paul summarizes this sentiment saying, "Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom ... we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:22-23). Christ's death and Resurrection would be the truest sign of His kingship. He, therefore, responds to the Jews' request for a sign saying, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" (Jn 2:19). Of course, the Jews misunderstand Him, thinking He is speaking about the Temple building, not the death and Resurrection of His own body. They do not understand the symbolism.

We know that the Mass, our highest form of worship, sacramentally presents to us the death and Resurrection of Christ. But it must look foolish to any outsider — a stumbling block. More than a sign, we know the Eucharist is the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. In fact, if we close our eyes, we believe that there is essentially no difference between being present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and being present at Calvary.

Imagine if we could see behind the veil of the Sacraments, we would never miss a Mass. But as people of faith, we don't need to see to believe. As long as we keep receiving the Sacraments and striving to follow God's will in our lives, He will reveal to us the ultimate sign: His presence working in our lives.

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