Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Stop making my Father's house a marketplace."

The Gospel for this Third Sunday of Lent, March 11, 2012,  gives us a shocking picture of Jesus. The gentle savior has turned violent. He erupts into anger as he sees merchants vend oxen, sheep and doves in the temple, sees money-changers doing commerce in God’s house.  Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

The account of the Cleansing of the Temple is common to all four Gospels and uniquely it is the only place in the scriptures where Jesus is shown using physical violence. Fr. John Foley, S. J. asks how in the world does such fury coincide with the silent, humble Jesus we will see in Holy Week? Why so angry?

The Cleansing of the Temple

A bit of a history lesson is in order. In Jewish thought, the temple was not just where sacrifice took place. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS explans that it was not just the gathering point for the festivals. It was first and foremost the dwelling place of God – it was a physical reminder of God’s presence in the midst of the people. The holy of holies in the center of the temple was considered God’s actual throne room. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB notes that the temple authorities believed this, but they had narrowed their vision, and thus were unable to see that Jesus himself was the new temple. He himself is the indestructible dwelling place of the divine presence, of prayer and communion with God.

Our buildings were not built just to be a meeting place, or an auditorium, or a place much like a theater where we go to experience a drama. Fr. Charles irvin says we are a communal church, a divine Church populated by men. Laurence Gonzaga is one who long has sought a perfection in this community of men which did not and cannot exist this side of eternity. He admits that he failed to separate the divine dimension and the human realities of the Church. And while we imperfect beings may come here for private prayer, the main reason we are in church is because this where we as God’s family play our roles in the great drama of God coming to us and our going back to God as His family.

The Temple of the Eucharist

No mere monuments of cold lifeless stone are our "temples". Father Cusick says our churches are the authentic descendants of the temple in Jerusalem. Each tabernacle housing the Body and Blood of the Lord is a true "Ark of the Covenant". It is the presence of the living God himself who makes each church and chapel a true temple, where we must bow down in awe before the all-holy God. It is the place where Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist.

It is the one place where we can be faithful, where we can essentially measure up. Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that we can't always control how we feel or how we think and we can't
always measure up morally and spiritually. But, inside of our perpetual inadequacy and occasional doubt and confusion, we can be faithful in this one deep way. We can go to the Eucharist regularly.

Pope John Paul expressly exhibited such faith when he was alive. If he ever visited any place and learned that the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, he stopped everything to spend at least a half hour on his knees. He said his liturgy of the hours, rosary, and was often found laying on his face in prayer. Fr. Joseph Pellegrno notes that Blessed John Paul’s wisdom did not flow from his intellect, it flowed from his faith. While non-believers dismiss our faith in the Eucharist, the foolishness of God is always wiser than all human wisdom.

The Cleansing of Our Own Souls

Fr. Phil Bloom explains the bad news contained in the Gospel - the imminent destruction of the Temple. It represents all the great disasters of human history - perhaps one looming for us. But the Gospel also contains good news. Jesus speaks about the rebuilding of the temple - in three days. He means his body, his Risen Body.

As we reflect on the Gospel. the real Cleansing therefore that we should be concerned with is not so much the chasing out of the money changers in the Temple Courtyard. It is the cleansing and purification of our own hearts and souls - the temple of the Holy Spirit. So when Jesus overturned the moneychangers’s tables, he was fulfilling Scripture and making clear that the messianic time of fulfilment was at hand. No more business as usual. No more ho-hum approach to religion. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says it was now time for living faith, not just religious belief. Zeal for God’s house consumed him, and he had come to light the fire of zeal in us as well.

And what exactly would it be like for Christ to disclose his mysterious presence in prayer? When asked this question, Dr. Lilles says his heart goes to the beautiful descriptions we find in the Life of St. Teresa of Avila, the Confessions of St. Augustine, the Life of Antony, the poetry of St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux's Story of a Soul, and Bl. Elisabeth of the Trinity's Prayer to the Trinity. In these works we find such a variety of experiences, it is reasonable to observe that each time Christ manifests his heart, He does so in an intimate, beautiful, and unrepeatable way.

The Ten Commandments & the Burning Issues of Today

It is no mistake that in our scheme of liturgical readings this account of the Cleansing of the Temple is linked to the handing down of the Ten Commandments for they represent a pattern for our lives as laid down by God himself. They show us in a practical way how to begin to put into practice those eternal values of justice, truth and mercy.

But today the Ten Commandments are more and more ignored by the people. They are regarded as a dusty set of proscriptions of little relevance to modern man. This is a big mistake because a world in which lying, cheating and adultery have become tolerated is an undesirable place to live. A world which ignores God and the rights of others and in which nothing is regarded as sacred is hostile to the deepest aspirations of human nature.

Today we see that the challenges to the Christian values of the family and marriage likewise continues. Just last Friday, USCCB president Timothy Cardinal Dolan wrote a letter to all the American bishops warning them that the situation in the United States regarding religious liberty suggests that "we have to prepare for tough times." On another front, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS comments on the ongoing battle to re-define marriage. He notes that whatever might be said in the media this is not part of any attack by the Church on people of a homosexual nature. The Church teaches that marriage has its roots in the very nature of mankind and cannot be redefined by the Church or the State.

And everywhere, the divorce culture continues to rear its ugly head. Simcha Fisher points to this author, writing for the Huffington Post, who stands out for her astonishing lack of self awareness when she says, "I had to abandon my husband in order to find myself." A virtuous man acts virtuously, and a monstrously selfish woman spends her life trying to find her monstrous self.

In this ongoing political environment, the Temple - which is marriage - is liable to be further debased and it falls to us to see that this does not happen. Like Christ in his own day we too ought to be roused up to defend this most precious of all of all our institutions.

The Irrational Beauty of Conversion

The world is spiraling out of control. It has been, in fact, since its pinnacle eight hundred years ago. But today it seems that any minute now, we’ll hurtle off kilter. The Church is under attack. And yet, somehow, for some reason, people are converting and flocking to the faith. Christian Tappe sees it for what it is. Irrational. Astounding. Beautiful.

How can we do our share? How about evangelizing at work? As Catholics, we are called to strive for holiness and maintain the integrity of our beliefs in the workplace. So how do we fulfill these obligations? We need to act like good Catholics. Meanwhile Dan Burke, a former Protestant pastor, answers a question commonly asked by many Catholics today: Should I read or consume non-Catholic devotional or bible study materials?

Lent, Fasting and More

From a reader: Are Sundays part of Lent? In response, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf points out that Sundays during Lent are during Lent. Lent is a penitential season, right? When we look at the calendar, we see “1st Sunday of Lent”, not “1st Sunday During Lent Which Doesn’t Have To Be Treated As If It Were Lent.”

Meanwhile Msgr. Charles Pope laments that required fasting is almost non-existent in the Catholic Church today. Even the two days where fasting is required for those over 18 and under 60, it is really a mitigated fast of two small “snack-like” meals and one regular sized meal (no snacks in between now!). Not really a fast at all. A truer fast (going without food for the whole day) is practiced by some today as a personal discipline and it is laudable if a person is able. He discusses "The Key to True Fasting."

If you’re ready to shift gears this Lent, Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP says you should discover the depth—and the ease—of praying with Pope Benedict XVI. She took his Lenten message “To stir a response in love and good works,” and structured it into four prayer sessions of five minutes each. You should check this out.

Happy Marriages

Laurie Puhn notes how people in happy marriages don’t fight, satisfied lovers never complain, and romantic love is constant and everlasting. Are you cracking a smile yet? Seriously though, she writes that happy couples are happy because they handle mundane issues and conflict with verbal tact and warmth so they are still holding hands when serious obstacles come their way. These 10 quick and simple tips to a happy marriage will keep the peace in the family and make your love connection stronger.

And have you ever noticed that the normal trials of life are always worse when you have children? Daria Sockey tells us that we should look to Sts. Felicity and Perpetua who are the patrons of Women in Bad Situations Complicated Further by Children. So, next time your find yourself spending your own 24 hour virus lugging a bucket, mop, and basket of soiled bedding as you struggle to care for other sick family members—ask these two martyrs to help you get through it. They are sure to understand.

Facebook & Catholic Apps

I wonder how many of us can do what this one Chicago woman did. She decided to give up more than the usual when Lent began on Ash Wednesday. Some people might be inclined to give up sweets, pastries, candy or alcohol during Lent. But Christine Melendes has decided to give up Facebook.

And let's talk more tech. Inspired by two women in her life, one of whom has a new iPad, and the other of whom asked about Catholic apps for her son’s iPod Touch, Sarah Reinhard compiled her own list of 13 Essential Catholic Apps. Check them all out and download a few.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: What commandments require restitution?
FEATURED BLOG: Should I read non-Catholic devotional materials?

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