The first Bible verse from today's First Reading [Ex. 20:1] states, "God spoke all these words." How appropriate are these words for the Lenten Season. In the First Reading, [Ex. 20:1-7] we heard the Words of God the Father. In the Second Reading, [1 Cor. 1:18, 22-25] we heard the Words of the Holy Spirit speaking through St. Paul. And, in the Gospel of St. John, [Jn. 2:13-25] we heard the Words of Jesus.
From these readings, each Divine Presence of the Holy Trinity provided us with a message as to how we should prepare ourselves during the Lenten Season. And for those who are parents of children, the message includes the "how" of preparing their young ones for the approach of Easter, the glorious Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Most of us are familiar with the First Reading because it contained the Ten Commandments. But having heard the Word of God and/or being familiar with it, does this mean that we always practice it? During the Lenten Season, this is the proper time to review the Ten Commandments so we may ask ourselves, "Am I obeying God's Divine Will?" "Am I living a holy life?"
The First Commandment reminds us that there is only One God who brought us out of slavery. It is by the grace of God that we have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism. It is by the grace of God that we have received our new creation as the first instalment towards inheriting the Kingdom of God. Being indebted to God through Jesus Christ, it would be hypocrisy for us to turn to astrology versus faith, to gambling versus Divine Providence, to fortune tellers versus trust in God, to self-abuse through addictions versus maturing in Christ, and the list goes on as we all know.
There is one living God. And our living faith demands of us that we respect Our Lord by remaining loyal to Him in all our thoughts, our words and our actions.
God forbids us to make idols. Some say, "I do not have idols in my home." But, when entering their homes, what do we find? We find good luck charms, good luck elephants of all colours and sizes, good luck unicorns, pictures of movie stars that the teenagers worship, etc... While some may claim that they do not to worship idols, they certainly surround themselves with them.
The Second Commandment reminds us not to use the Most Holy Name of the Lord in vain. That specifically means to stop swearing. Some may claim, well it is just a habit, not being intended against God. Habit or not, it is still using the Name of God in vain and God forbids it.
The Third Commandment reminds us to keep the Sabbath holy. Since the institution of the Holy Catholic Church through Jesus Christ, the Sabbath has been replaced with Sunday as the holy day. Sunday reminds us of the day of the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a holy day! It is a day that God has set aside for us to rest, to go to Church to receive Jesus Christ in our hearts through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. It is a day of rejoicing and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a day to praise God, to thank Him for all what He has given us. And when all that is done, it is a time to rest with our family so we may enjoy a loving relationship with one another.
The Fourth Commandment reminds us to honour our parents so we may live a long life. How often do we hear, "I hate my parents because they have so many rules." Yes, many hate their parents because they have many caring and loving rules. These children seem unaware to the fact that a child is God's gift to parents. As such, God expects the parents to raise holy children who know right from wrong. Parents who fail to do so shall be made accountable to God. And if children deliberately make it difficult for their parents by not honouring them, by refusing to respect and obey them, they shall personally be made accountable to God. God knows the hearts and He will not punish the parents who have done all they could to raise their children in righteousness when their children have refused to cooperate and obey.
The Fifth Commandment reminds us not to murder. What is murder? Some think it is just taking a gun and shooting someone. Murder means more than shooting someone. Abortion is murder. Euthanasia is murder. The moment someone dies as a result of promoting wars, hatred, or discrimination against minority groups, it becomes murder. We may not be the one who actually committed the crime but we are just as guilty by encouraging such a crime. The death penalty is murder when it is an abuse of power. If someone is sentenced to death because he is a schizophrenic or because he suffers from another mental illness, is this not the murder of the sick? Where is the compassion and the mercy? Where is the love of Christ to convert sinners? Has God placed us as judges over our brothers to determine who should live and die?
The Sixth Commandment reminds us not to commit adultery. Adultery has become an acceptable norm of society - acceptable to society but not acceptable to God. How many times do we hear of those who say, "Well I live a good life." "I go to Church on Sunday and I receive communion." "I am a good Christian." Not only are these poor souls deceiving themselves while living in sin, but they dare receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin, this being just like slapping Jesus in the face. Do they not know that we are not allowed to receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin? Do they not know that adultery is a mortal sin? Do they not know that if they died tonight, they would be denied entry into the eternal Kingdom of God because they have chosen their fleshly desires over the righteousness of God?
The Seventh Commandment reminds us not to steal. Many say they do not steal. They borrow but they do not return what they borrowed. They take little things from their employers such as pens, erasers, rulers, never asking for them, nor paying for them. They find an object of value and do not try to find its owner just to make sure that they can keep it, even when they suspect who may have lost it. Some go to the extent of switching prices on merchandise in the stores so they can get a good deal. Others notice that items have been wrongly priced and take advantage of it. Some charge up their Visa or Chargex Cards knowing that they will never be able to pay it back. To solve the problem, they declare personal bankruptcy. These are all different ways of stealing. How can one say he does not steal when he practices these things without scruples?
The Eight Commandment reminds us not to bear false witness against our neighbours. How many allow their tongues to get out of control like a wild fire that destroys a forest? How many say things about others that they would never say in front of their face? How many parents encourage their children to lie against a parent by claiming "abuse" during custody battles? How many have destroyed the reputation of others or caused years of hardship upon a person because of lies? Is this the love that Jesus preached?
The Ninth and Tenth Commandments remind us not to covet our neighbour's house, nor his wife or what belongs to him. It is not spiritually healthy for a husband or wife to spend all their time drinking coffee at the neighbours when they should be striving on maturing in their sacred marriage so they can grow in the love of Jesus with each other. Nor is it spiritually healthy to desire the personal property of one's neighbour. No one has ever gone to Heaven with a suitcase of personal belongings or lots of cash in their pockets. Worldly things are useless in Heaven. If we want Heavenly treasures, we must seek spiritual growth in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
As St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. But for those who are saved, it is the power of God. The message of the cross is the message of love of Jesus that was summarized in two Commandments. First, love God. Secondly, love your neighbours as you would like them to love you. If what I just finished saying about the Ten Commandments is foolishness to me, then I am perishing. Either I live by the teachings of God or I do not! Either I go to Heaven or I do not! It is as simple as that!
We proclaim Christ crucified. To the unbelievers, this is a stumbling block and foolishness. They claim that if Jesus was God, why did the angels not rescue Him from being crucified? They fail to perceive that in Divine love, Jesus took our place on the cross. He died for our sins so we, as children of God, may inherit the Heavenly Kingdom.
Those who think they can see, they are blind. God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. God's weakness is stronger than human strength. For us who are faithful children of God, Christ is our power. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, in our hearts, we perceive the wisdom of God.
In today's Gospel, we heard of when Jesus went up to the Temple in Jerusalem at the approach of the Passover. There He found people selling animals and exchanging money in His Father's House. Making a whip, Jesus drove the animals out and overturned the tables of the money changers.
The people demanded an explanation from Jesus, under what authority was He acting to do such a thing. Jesus told them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Being blind to the spiritual meaning of the words of Jesus, the people asked how He could do it in three days when the Temple was still under construction after forty-six years. They did not realize that Jesus was talking about His Body, the glorious Resurrection.
During the Lenten Season, this Gospel passage bears another spiritual meaning. We are Temples of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As Jesus cleaned the Temple of the animals and money changers, we should clean our Temples of our habits, our vices, our sins, all what is unrighteous and offensive to the Lord God. While our physical bodies shall die when our moment arrives, our souls shall continue to live because of the loving atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Together, in spirit, we shall await our glorious resurrection when our physical bodies shall be raised from the dead. Then, at the moment of the final judgment, it shall be determined if we are to partake in the eternal Kingdom of God or be denied entrance into His infinite glory.
Death shall destroy our Temples. But until such time as death does its work, we are called by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify our Temples in Christ. We are called to become holy as God is Holy.
As we continue on our journey towards Easter, let us reflect on the cleanliness of our Temples. Let us reflect on what God has said to us when He spoke to us today through the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Let us now make a firm commitment on cleaning our Temples for the glory of God.