Fr. Bryan Howard
3rd Sunday in Lent – Year B – 4 March 2018
Actions speak louder than words. Put your money where your mouth is. All that glitters is not gold. These are all ways of saying that sometimes, what something appears to be, isn’t what it really is. We value honesty and integrity because, when someone lives their life by those principles, you always know what you’re going to get. They’re consistent and dependable. This is true in our families. Children need to know that the rules aren’t going to change from one day to the next, and spouses need to be able to rely on one another. It’s true in friendships. A faithful friend is one that you can count one to be there when you need them. It’s true in business. When you get a reputation for being unreliable, then only unreliable people will do business with you. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s also true in the spiritual life. Many people say that they’re spiritual or religious, but they don’t put in the work to grow in the spiritual virtues, faith, hope, charity, temperance, justice, prudence, and courage.
Our first reading is the Ten Commandment, which is the basic guide to the spiritual life, to strengthening your relationship with God. Everything else, the beatitudes, the virtue, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, builds on this foundation. That’s why we make children memorize the 10 Commandments, but we need to keep going back to them. It’s like basketball. You need to start with the fundamentals, with dribbling, shooting, and passing, in order to get anywhere. Eventually, you’ll get to more advanced plays and strategies, but if you forget the fundamental everything else is useless.
When we teach the 10 Commandments, especially in the teenage years, we get lots of questions like, “Is this okay? Is that a sin? What about this?” Always trying to push the boundaries, to know how far they can go before it becomes a sin. We do this as adults too, we’re just better and sneakier about it. We’re very good at justifying the things that we want, at twisting the law just enough, or convincing ourselves that it’s really not so bad.
This is what’s happening in the cleansing of the Temple in today’s Gospel. All Israelites were required to offer sacrifice in the Temple twice a year, but some of them lived a long way away, and it was difficult to bring sheep and cattle all the way there. So, in the book of Deuteronomy Moses gave them permission to sell the animals, bring the money to Jerusalem, and then buy animals there to sacrifice in the Temple. By the time of Jesus, however, the chief priests’ family was in charge of selling these animals, so he made a law that you can’t use Roman coins to buy sacrificial animals. You could only use Temple coins, and you can only get Temple coins by going to the money changers in the Temple. They charged a large fee to change your money. This was not specifically against any law, but it was basically theft. Christ, outraged that they’re using His Father’s House, the Temple, to enrich themselves, makes a whip out of cords and drives out the animals, overturns the money changes tables, and tells them, “Stop making my Father’s House a marketplace.”
Instead of asking ourselves, “How can I get away with doing what I want?” We should be asking, “Is what I want really good?” Remember, God can look into the heart. It’s not enough to follow the letter of the law, we also have to have good intentions. Do we want to grow in holiness? Do we want to grow closer to God? Do we want to be better neighbors to one another? This is not about rules and regulations. It’s about relationships. During this coming week, look through the Ten Commandments again, and really think about them. The first three are about our relationship with God. Do I put God first in my life, or do I put other things ahead of Him? Have I made something else more important than God? Do I take the name of the Lord in vain? Remember, most other sins that we commit indirectly offend God, but when we use His name to curse, we directly insult God. Do I keep Holy the Sabbath? Do I go to Mass on Sunday? Do I use Sunday to focus on God and family instead of work? The last seven commandments are about our relationships with one another. Do I honor my father and mother? Do I wish harm on others? Am I faithful to my spouse? Or, if I’m not married, to my future spouse? Do I steal? Do I lie? Do I covet my neighbor’s spouse or goods? Do I focus on everyone else’s blessings in life instead of my own blessings? Am I ungrateful?
Remember that God’s mercy is always available in the Sacrament of Confession. This week confession is available at every Church in the Archdiocese of New Orleans from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm. Our mission preacher, Fr. Kurt, will also be available after the Mission on Wednesday night to hear confessions.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.