Gospel Reflection for Sunday the 7th of March 2021
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Third Sunday of Lent
The economy of worship.
Have you ever been on pilgrimage and found yourself distracted by the markets? Being led down a path that takes you off route from your original destination? Wherever human traffic gathers it is inevitable that some sort of commerce will follow, both local and foreign.
This familiar landscape is the one we find in Jesus’ attack on what had become of the temple space dedicated to God and reserved for ritual worship. The focus of this explosive incident is to simply keep us on route. To remind us that at the heart of our worship is our relationship with God and not to fall prey to the many distractions that so often derail us from that relationship. Jesus’ words to render unto Cesar what belongs to Cesar and to God what belongs to God inform his actions here. John’s account includes the insightful observation that Jesus did not give himself over to them, that he knew their human nature is how some translations describe it. It is a forceful reminder of the human tendency to idolize the fleeting, to become slaves to our selfish desires. The age-old testament story of idol worship and slavery powerfully recollected in the book of Exodus emerges from this gospel. As of writing this there is a similar irony playing out today that is not lost on the faithful.
New temples were hundreds, thousands, pilgrim and commerce while less than a few hundred yards away churches remain closed, restricted to the public for true worship. Anger is something you encounter often as a priest, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation. I often like to remind people that we need to be clear in what we mean by anger and this incident of Jesus in the temple is one I like to reference. Is our anger the destructive kind that eats away at ourselves and others? Or is it the kind of anger we see in Jesus’ passion, Jesus’ hunger for justice to do what is right in the eyes of God?
The season of lent is designed to help us focus, to get back on the right road towards the good, towards God, to prioritise, to put order back into the chaos. It is good for us to ask then, what are the market places in our own temples, within our own hearts? What might be preventing me from prayer and ritual worship? What might be distracting me from a true relationship with God? And if we encounter an anger within; what passion, what hunger will it fuel within as we commit to journeying back toward God?
– Fr. Frank Trias CP
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