3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11 (John 6:68c)
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
March 4, 2018
Jesus is, of course, a faithful Jew. That means going to the Temple in Jerusalem for important feasts like the Passover. We generally believe that Jesus’ public ministry lasted about three years because John’s Gospel tells us of Jesus going to the Temple for the Passover three times. This is the first of those three times.
Jesus is not pleased with what he finds.
There are people selling oxen, sheep, and doves as well as people there working as money changers. Now, one can justify their presence in the vicinity for the benefit of those traveling to the Temple. While at the temple, the travelers would need to pay their temple tax but may not have come with correct form of currency so they went to the money changers.
Likewise, coming to the temple, they would be offering sacrifice of sheep or doves. It was easier to travel without living animals and then purchase them at the temple.
So, animal sellers and money changers were providing a service but they didn’t need to be right in the temple. They could have set up shop in the regular marketplaces of Jerusalem where people could have stopped for what they needed.
Instead, they set up right at the temple area. How much of a distraction would this be to what the temple was meant for, to give praise and worship to God?
The temple was not to be a place of business. The same is true of our churches today. We build churches to have a place to worship, not to do business.
Today is a good time to talk about what it means to be a church. This weekend (specifically Saturday, March 3rd) we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of our diocese.
Our diocese has changed a lot in 150 years. We are now on our ninth bishop. In 1868, there were fewer people and a lower percentage of Catholics. As Catholic immigrants came, parishes grew. More and bigger churches were built. Schools were built. Now, we are shrinking.
We need to work to rebuild the Church. In saying “rebuild” I am reminded of when St. Francis of Assisi first heard God tell him to “rebuild his church”, Francis took it to mean the physical church building in his town which was in bad shape. So, Francis rebuilt that church but then came to realize God was referring not just to the physical church building but to restore and build up our faith.
When I say we need to rebuild the church, I am not talking about our physical building. Our church building needs some work but is in fair shape. Rather, when I say, “rebuild the Church,” I am talking about the work of Evangelization and Apologetics.
We need to learn more ourselves and help others understand what it means to be Catholic. This is the work of Evangelization and Apologetics.
For instance, our first reading today presents us with The Ten Commandments. First among these are “You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves.”
The Ten Commandments were written in a time when many people believed in numerous gods. Today we say we believe in one god but do we make money and wealth out to be a false god that we put before the one true God?
What about idols? Today, we do not make golden calves to worship but what about money? What will we do for money? As Catholics we also get accused of worshipping statues, paintings, and windows as false idols. It is true that we have statues and paintings but they are not idols. Most often they depict saints. However, they are not idols no more than a selfie you take on your smartphone. These images are not to be worshipped as idols. They are only reminders of the examples of the saints who have gone before us as Christian disciples.
It is important for us to know these things and so much more that our faith offers us. This is part of following Jesus and to be a true Church, we need to follow Jesus.
This isn’t easy. It takes effort. That’s why we have a staff. I can’t do it all myself. Neither can the staff. That’s why we need parishioners who volunteer. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “thy kingdom come.” This is our goal.
I want to back up to the beginning for a moment now. I started with the money changers in the Temple and how they didn’t belong there. I won’t be surprised if someone then wondered why I talk about money in church at times.
I know many people don’t like to hear about money in church. That’s okay. I don’t like to talk about it either. But it is your church. You need to hear how we are doing. We try to walk a fine line. That’s why we mail out the annual reports and try only to offer highlights in church. That’s why when we are selling stuff, we do it in the hall and not in the church worship space and not during Mass. These things are necessary to raise the money we need but they are not what we are here for.
We are here to make God’s kingdom known. The gospel first came to the natives here in the days when the United States were just a colony. Missionaries came. Our diocese was established to continue the work started by the early missionaries. We need to continue today to proclaim the gospel to each and every person as children of God.