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GOSPEL AND REFLECTION
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
First Reading – Exodus 20:1-17
The Law was given through Moses.
God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
‘You shall have no gods except me.
‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.
‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work on that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, not your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.
‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.
‘You shall not kill.
‘You shall not commit adultery.
‘You shall not steal.
‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’
Ps 18:8-11. R. Jn 6:68
(R.) Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
We are preaching a crucified Christ, a scandal to many, but to those who have been called, the wisdom of God..
While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory!
God loved the world so much, he gave us his only Son,
that all who believe in him might have eternal life.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory!
Gospel – John 2:13-25
Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.
Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.
During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.
Keeping Everything in Balance
Today’s gospel passage foreshadows the death of Jesus. As a devout Jew, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem at Passover. His final going-up will be the occasion of his death and resurrection. The Jerusalem Temple, Judaism’s most holy place, is the site of a dramatic incident, an event that is recounted in all four gospels. The Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) locate it towards the end of the gospel. They present it as a catalyst for the intensification of hostility between the temple authorities and Jesus. John’s gospel, in contrast, places it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The tension between Jesus and the temple authorities that is to culminate in his death in all four gospels is thus present from the outset in John.
Jesus acts decisively, even violently, to draw attention to the primary function of God’s “house”. He creates an effective weapon, a whip of cords, and comprehensively clears the temple precinct of merchants, sheep, and cattle. He overturns the tables of the money-changers, orders the dove-sellers out and tells them all, in words that evoke the prophecy of Zechariah (14:21), to stop making God’s house “a market-place”. Zechariah had declared that, in the end times, there would no longer be traders in God’s house. There was legitimate commercial activity associated with temple worship, such as the purchase of animals and doves for sacrifice, a practice we might now critique, and the changing of money to pay the Temple tax. The traders seem to have forgotten that this activity was a means to an end and not an end in itself.
In John’s account, the disciples understand” partially: they interpret Jesus’ actions in the light of Psalm 69:9: “It is zeal for your house that has consumed me”. The Jews” request a “sign … for doing this”. In other words, they ask Jesus to demonstrate the source of his authority for his actions. His response is a challenge: “Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up”. “The Jews” misunderstand. This provides Jesus with the opportunity to play on the word “temple”: the temple is not only a material edifice that took forty-six years to build. It is also, metaphorically, his body that will be destroyed and raised up “in three days”. The narrator provides the explanation and indicates that the disciples will eventually understand and come to belief. It is important to note that John writes with the wisdom of hindsight. It is also important to note that the designation “the Jews” is neither a reference to the people of Judaea nor to the dispersed Jewish people. In John’s gospel, it refers to those who reject Jesus as the Anointed One of God, the Christ. As we travel the journey to Jerusalem this Lent, we are invited to keep everything in balance, and to remember that God, and not the opponents of Jesus, will have the final word in this drama.
Sr Veronica Lawson rsm
© The scriptural quotations are taken from the Jerusalem Bible, published and copyright 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton Longman and Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Co Inc, and used by permission of the publishers. The English translation of the Psalm Responses, the Alleluia and Gospel Verses, and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, and the Titles, Summaries, and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass © 1997, 1981, 1968, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.