Catholic homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent Year B
Theme: Cleansing of the temple
By: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
Homily for Sunday March 7 2021
Psalm 19; 1
First reading from the book of Exodus presents us with the Ten Commandments of God, which were the basis of the religious life of the Israelites. St. Paul in the second reading tells of the reason the Jews failed to understand Jesus; He came like a suffering servant while the Jews were waiting for a political Messiah. In the gospel we see Jesus while entering the temple makes it clear to the Jewish leaders and people that He was someone special and close to God whose house they were desecrating and whom He even called His Father.
This Gospel for the third Sunday of lent shows us the prophecy of Jesus Resurrection, and as we know, that is the event that we are preparing for in Lent to celebrate at Easter, but we need to also note that the one time that Jesus gets really angry that we are told about happens here in this gospel passage as well. It happens because Jesus sees the commandments of our relationship to God being damaged. The house of God, the temple where God dwelt was considered sacred. It was where worship was held, it was where God’s name was never taken in vain, but glorified. Yet the porticos of the Temple were surrounded by trade and finance, and indeed, more emphasis was being put on the trading activities than the actual worship and the sacrifice itself.
So as we have to come to the middle of our Lenten preparation, let us use the Ten Commandments to sharpen our repentance, to review our past faults and sins, to pledge anew to be worthy of the grace that God has given us, to question more carefully the motives for why we do things, and resolve to give back to God even more than he asked for. God gave us these commandments to help us, to guide us and to bring us closer to Him. Let us make this Lent a truly repentant one, a way of thanking God for all the graces he has shown us and the many more He will show us. And let us find the time, let us take the time and let us make the time to show God we care and are thankful for his gifts.
In the event of Jesus purification of the temple of Jerusalem that we read in the gospel today, we see the temple as a symbol of our own Christian life that needs purification, most especially with the opportunity that Lenten observances offer us. If indeed we see ourselves as temple of God, then we need to avoid a calculating mentality in our worship of God: Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, one of mutual love, respect and a desire for the family’s good, with no thought of personal loss or gain. Hence, coming to mass on Sunday only out of fear of mortal sin and consequent eternal punishment (hence, a loss), would be a non-Christian approach. In the same way, obeying the commandments and doing acts of charity merely as means for heavenly reward are acts driven by a profit motive, of which Jesus would not approve.
Hence, let us ask ourselves some questions during this third week of Lent: Can leading worship become simply a business for the clergy for which they are paid? Do the laity sometimes think that they are “paying” the minister to do the worship for them — thinking, “we pay them to do this for us”? Do we think of God as a vending machine into which we put our sacrifices and good deeds to get back His blessings? Do we use our acts of obedience to the Ten Commandments as bargaining chips with God? One of the most frequent accusation of non-believers against religious persons is that they are “hypocritical.” Though, more often than not, this is either a case of people trying to justify their own lack of religious commitment, or of the misconception that you profess the faith because you live it perfectly (while in fact we profess the faith because we do not live it perfectly, though we want to). Perhaps those non-believers are right, because the theologian Karl Rahner would say: “The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim God with their mouths and deny Him with their lifestyles are what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable.”
We need to remember that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit: St. Paul reminds us that we are God’s temples because the Spirit of God dwells in us. Hence, we have no right to desecrate God’s temple by impurity and injustice. We are expected to cleanse our hearts of pride, hatred, jealousy and all evil thoughts, desires and plans. In likewise manner as Jesus did in cleansing the Temple, we, as 21st century disciples, must, with His grace, cleanse ourselves of attitudes and behaviors that prevent us from seeing and responding to injustice and hurt wherever we find it. Let us welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives during Lent by repentance and the renewal of our lives. We will drive out the wild animals that do not belong to the holy temple of our body by making a whip of cords out of our fasting, penance and almsgiving during Lent and by going to confession to receive God’s loving forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation.
We need to love our parish church and use it well: Our church is the place where we come together as a community to love and praise God. It is the holy place where we gather strength to support one another in the task of living the gospel. It is the place where we come privately to enter into intimate conversation with God. In this building many prodigal sons and daughters have met the merciful Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and have been welcomed back to our community. In this building, tears have been shed by those in pain and grief. Let’s look around our church this morning and treasure it. When we pass our church, we might take the time to make a brief visit. Let us make our church even more of a holy place by adding our prayers and songs to parish worship and offering our time and talents in the various ministries.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*