THE COMMANDMENTS CLEANSE

3rd Sunday of Lent              

            A husband and wife were discussing the possibility of taking a trip to the Holy Land. “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to go to the Holy Land and stand and shout the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai?” the husband asked his wife. The wife replied, “It would be better if you stayed home and kept them.”

            Today’s first reading gives us the Ten Commandments. Those ancient laws of God that sound like restrictions but, when you think about them, they are actually ways to set ourselves free. They cleanse us, heal us, and free us from the idolatry of things around us so as one gospel writer puts it, the Commandments free us from the things we consume so that they do not end up consuming us. “The Commandments are the ancient, God-given avenues to real liberation and genuine cleansing.”

            Joseph Krempa has this commentary on today first reading: “The first three Commandments call on us to let God be the only God in our life, to revere and respect everything that is connected with him: his person, his name, his holy days (Sundays).” “The fourth Commandment calls on us to respect our family relationships, especially our parents.” “The fifth through eighth Commandments call on us to respect the community of which we are a part by respecting property, truth-telling, marriage, our own and that of others, as well as respecting the sacred power of sexuality.” “And the last two Commandments call on us to look beneath our behavior, to look within, at that secret inner world of our desires and yearnings to see if the Gospel shapes them. What do we covet or desire and, more telling, why?”

            Today’s gospel reading is known as “the cleansing of the temple.” Implicitly, we are reminded that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Every time we violate o disobey any of the Commandments, we defile or desecrate our personal temple. And having been defiled, our temple needs cleansing. Lent calls us to identify those areas of our lives that need cleansing, and allow Jesus to do some house-cleaning in our lives.

            St. Paul, in his Letter to the Corinthians (3:16-17), tells us to see ourselves as God’s temple, and as such we are a sacred people. “You are God’s building… Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Paul is telling us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit and that we should make sure that the actions we choose and the lifestyle we embrace reflect this truth.

            Bring this profound insight of St. Paul that we are God’s temple together with the image of Jesus cleansing the temple, and we have a wonderful subject for our Lenten reflection. The Lenten season should be a moment of cleansing for us – in order that our bodies may become sacred temples. Lent calls us to identify those areas of our lives that need cleansing. We must humbly admit that we have violated ourselves as God’s temple with things that are not pleasing to the Lord: lustful thoughts, selfish acts, distorted values, wrong priorities. We have desecrated God’s temple by our greed and lust, disobedience and unfaithfulness, worldliness and materialism. envy and jealousy, bitterness and unforgiveness. We have defiled God’s temple with our attachments and addictions, betrayals and denials, perversions and dissipations.

            Since we have violated, desecrated, and defiled God’s temple, we need the Lord Jesus to do some cleansing in us. Let Jesus loose in the temple of your body… let him swing that whip of cords around… let him knock some things over!

            If you are, indeed, God’s temple… if your life, your body, your self is meant to be a temple where God is praised and worshipped… then every aspect of your life is meant to be turned to the Lord. Everything in you and about you is meant to be dedicated and consecrated to the Lord: your mind, your heart, your will, your body, your sexuality… your every thought and idea, your every word and speech, your every deed and action, your every choice and decision… your family and marriage, your relationships and friendships… your job, your profession, your career, your business… even your engagement in social media… indeed, everything in you and about you is meant to be a sweet offering, a pleasing sacrifice onto the Lord.

            Whatever in us which is not utterly dedicated to God needs to be reformed, needs to be turned over, needs to be cleansed. Again, let us allow the Lord Jesus to do some house-cleaning in our lives and rededicate ourselves as God’s sacred temples.

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