7th March, 2021

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Today’s liturgy of the Word is very rich in content, and it seems to me that it would be easy to prepare a very long reflection based on each of the Ten Commandments and also on the Gospel. The first reading of the Book of Exodus reminds us of God’s Law expressed in the Ten Commandments. I think that each of us remembers all these commandments from our childhood and each of us tries to follow them in our daily life because they are the basic law of our Christian life.

Today’s Gospel tells us about a very interesting event and a very unusual and surprising behaviour of Jesus that took place in the Temple of Jerusalem. In order to better understand this gospel scene, I think it is worth getting to know the historical background of the events described in this gospel. According to historians, at the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was a fairly large town with about 60,000 people living there. Every year about 120,000 people came to this charming town to visit this very significant place of worship which was the Jerusalem Temple and to celebrate the Jewish Passover. Apparently, about 18,000 sacrifices were made to God each year during these days, so we can imagine how many cattle, pigeons and other animals people brought to this holy place. The roar of oxen, the bleating of sheep, the cooing of pigeons, the shouting and quarrels of sellers and buyers of various things, the clink of coins – this was certainly a very common sight and sound on the streets of Jerusalem in those days. We can also easily imagine that to some extent everything that was happening in the vicinity of the Jerusalem temple – instead of helping -, disturbed and distanced people from what is most important and what is the essence of any religiosity and worship. All this noise and clamour was something that definitely disturbed people from praying and meeting God, and – as we can imagine – it mainly caused Jesus’ anger and such a sharp reaction. The second interpretation of this scene and of such harsh behaviour of Jesus says that Jesus reacted in this unprecedented way because on the coins that people brought and used in this holy place there was an image of Caesar who considered himself a god. And yet the first commandment of the decalogue says: You shall have no gods except me.

And one more point that would certainly help us understand this gospel and the most important message that Jesus wants to give us today. The other evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, quote Jesus’ words quite differently from Saint John. Saint John says: Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market. On the other hand, Matthew, Mark and Luke put the words of the prophet Jeremiah into the mouth of Jesus: My house shall be called a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a den of thieves. Anyway, according to all the evangelists Jesus strives and cares for the temple to be always the house of God and a house of prayer, but he also reminds people of the first commandment, which is the most important in the entire decalogue: You shall have no gods except me.

Today’s Gospel – on the third Sunday of Lent – wants to tell us something very important that may surprise some of us. Well sometimes we can be present in the church and we can physically attend Mass but at the same time not experience the essence of prayer and a true encounter with God. Why does this happen sometimes? Of course, none of us bring any animals or pets to the church that would hinder or interfere with our concentration on prayers and on Holy Mass. The only animal that we can sometimes meet in our church is the guide dog Vann, which – as we know – is a very friendly, calm and quiet creature, and also – as I know him – he would never distract anyone here. But I think Jesus would very much like to remind us today how important our attitude and our behaviour should be in this holy place. Today, He wants to tell us how essential is not only our presence, but also what happens in our hearts and in our thoughts when we gather to worship and to listen to the One who is present here especially in the tabernacle in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Therefore, it is worth asking today what is the greatest obstacle for me when I come to church to pray and to participate with respect in the greatest mysteries of our faith? Perhaps the biggest obstacle is some unwanted thoughts and distractions that we struggle with. Or perhaps sometimes we succumb to another temptation to meet someone we haven’t seen for a long time and then we try to have a word or just chat about our daily life, politics, family matters and other things important to us.

Let today’s gospel be for us a strong encouragement to even greater respect and care for our parish church, and for the liturgy that we celebrate here. But let us also remember that the most beautiful worship takes place first in the silence of our hearts, which – with the help of God’s grace but also with our own effort and cooperation with this grace – can become the most magnificent temples for the glory of God. Amen.

Fr Gregory