Browsing Homilies

Third Sunday of Lent (5 PM Vigil)

Ex 20:1-17 | Ps 19 | 1 Cor 1:22-25 | Jn 2:13-25

The Judeo-Christian faith is founded on the law of God, which Moses was given on Mount Sinai. This law, or the Ten Commandments, has often been used to paint an image of God as judgmental, unforgiving, a stern taskmaster, who is just waiting for us to sin or fail so that we can receive our just punishment. He is seen as a God retribution; someone who should be feared for the sake of fear. How does one reconcile this image of God with a loving, merciful father, who is quick to forgive and welcome us home? How can the God of the Law be the same God, who welcomes his prodigal son home with expensive clothing and rich food? The Law is God’s love letter or covenant with His people. God does not wish to trick us or condemn us; rather, God wants to be in relationship with his people. In fact, God loves us so much, and in return the only thing he asks of us is that we love him with our whole being.

The Law of love is the blueprint for, not only our relationship with God, but with our neighbor as well. We cannot love God without loving and serving our neighbor. When we harm our neighbor, we break our relationship with the Creator. Harming our neighbor comes in many forms. When we pillage the earth, when we hoard food, when we steal, and when we covet what doesn’t belong to us, we sin against our neighbor and against God. This covenant invites us to enter into a profound relationship with the One who created us in God’s image and likeness, and with our neighbor. It is a sure path that will lead to happiness in this life and the next.

In the second reading, Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth where he was dealing with a divided community filled with conflicts. It is a letter that could very well be written today to all the different denominations, or even within our own faith tradition as Catholics, where we are all too quick to label one another as liberal or conservative; as faithful or unfaithful to the magisterium of the Church.

In Paul’s day, Corinth was the finest city in Greece. It held its place as a cosmopolitan center of industry and trade. It was also known for its notoriety and depravity throughout the empire, and its corruption often spilled over into the community’s worship. The apostle Paul spent a couple of years in Corinth and founded a large congregation of believers. While the church at Corinth had many spiritual gifts and had been instructed by the apostle himself, they continued to live just like the unbelievers, without discerning the spiritual realities by which God’s people are to live.

After Paul left Corinth, problems began to emerge that tore at the unity of this community, and Paul quickly sat down to write words of guidance. Two-thousand years later, the disturbing things that happened at Corinth are happing even today. There are still doctrinal disputes, immorality in our society, disagreements between believers, corrupt spiritual leaders, the breakdown of the family, etc. This reality makes this letter to the church in Corinth one of the most relevant of the New Testament epistles today.

Paul first deals with the problem of cliques or factions that exist in Corinth. To put it in present terms, some today identify themselves first by denomination or their particular parish. In Corinth, they were identifying themselves as followers of Paul or Peter, or another, rather than followers of Christ. To resolve the problem, Paul instructs them to look at all things from Christ’s point of view. Jesus, not the apostles Paul or Peter, or any other human being, is to have our total allegiance.

Next, Paul tells them that the cross of Christ is the only way to solve spiritual problems. Neither the Jews’ pragmatic approach nor the Gentiles’ rational philosophical approach can grasp the power and wisdom God expresses in the folly of the cross. God’s wisdom is wiser than any human wisdom, and as Christians, we must always seek the wisdom of God.

In today’s gospel we encounter a furious Jesus toward those who conduct business in the temple court during the time of Passover. His zeal for God’s house and what is owed to God reflects a prophetic statement found in the sixty-ninth Psalm: “…for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me” (Ps 69:9). Jesus’ anger was justified. They weren’t keeping holy the Sabbath and they were extorting the poor, who did not have the resources to pay the steep prices demanded for sacrificial offerings. Jesus stands always on the side of the poor—the least among our neighbors.

God’s law or covenant invites us into a love relationship with the Father because of His priceless love for us made manifest in His Word, which became flesh. By his suffering and dying for our salvation, our broken relationship with God is repaired and made new in Christ Jesus.

By his cross and resurrection, we are set free.

This is indeed the greatest folly of all.


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