Third Sunday of Lent
Lord Jesus, please take away the snow and ice, and hasten the warmth of Springtime. But not our will, but Your will be done. Amen.
Third Week of Lent. As Lent continues I encourage you all to let yourself enter more fully into the holiness of this season. Some of you may not have really turned your full attention to the penitence of the season yet, and some of you may be starting to wane in your sincere efforts. All that is understandable, but we must not let this great opportunity to draw closer to Christ slip away.
In this regard I urge you to pause every night before you go to bed and briefly examine your consciences, thinking both of your sins and of God’s blessings of the day. Also take a moment to consider how well you “kept Lent” that day.
I also encourage you to carefully review the Lenten Schedule we distributed last week (go to straymonds.org and click “Worship Schedules” and think about which of the various Lenten liturgies and activities you should take part in—and resolve to make it happen.
Looking over the schedule, I see the daily confessions—have you been yet? And the Friday Stations of the Cross—such a simple but profound devotion. And Fr. deLadurantaye’s Wednesday lecture series on the Virtues—the tools that help us to become more Christ-like. Or maybe you can come to Exposition and Adoration on Wednesday or Friday. Or how about waking up early once a week to come to morning Mass. Or go to Mass at another church during lunch. Or maybe come to Wednesday Mass at 7pm—you could come early to go to confession, spend time in Adoration, go to Mass and then take an hour to learn from Fr. deLadurantaye; what a great Lenten evening!
Don’t let this opportunity to grow in holiness, pass you by. Keep the love of Christ Crucified before your eyes at all times, so that your hearts may be transformed every day in Lent.
RCIA and RCIC. Please keep in prayer those adults and children who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church and/or be baptized, confirmed and receive First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil. For the last few months they have been preparing diligently for that great day. Let us pray that they persevere in faith, and be open to all the graces God has in store for them. And may they be an example to the rest of us, reminding each of us of our own continuing need for personal conversion in the love of Christ.
The Angry Jesus. In today’s Gospel we read the story of how Jesus takes a whip and drives the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple. There is no denying it—Jesus is angry. This story is very disconcerting to many people; after all, Jesus is the Incarnation of God, who “is love.”
But this is not the only example in the Gospels of Jesus’ anger. Elsewhere, he clearly angrily scolds the scribes and Pharisees: “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …blind guides, …You blind fools!…” On three different occasions he calls them “You serpents, you brood of vipers”—in effect, sons of the Devil, the ancient serpent. He also gets angry with Peter once, saying, “get behind me Satan.” Of course in today’s passage, talk turns to physical violence: he has a whip, and turns over the tables, and chases them out of the temple.
But how can the Good Lord Jesus be angry? The thing is, anger itself is not a sin, it is a “passion,” an emotion, and emotions are neither good nor evil in themselves, but may become evil or good depending on whether they are guided by right reason and truth. For example, love is also a passion, but sometimes we can love something in an unreasonable way, e.g., if you love chocolate more than good health, that love is unreasonable and so evil. While we usually speak of anger as a sin (even one of the (7 deadly sins) it is only so when it is not governed or motivated by right reason (including justice and truth). But when it is “in accordance with the order of reason, the desire of anger is praiseworthy, and is called “zealous anger” (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST, II-II, 158, 2), or “righteous indignation.” We may experience this kind of anger, for example, when we see innocent Christians beheaded by Islamist terrorists.
This “zealous anger” is also what we see in Jesus today: “His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.” He is rightly angry because people are treating the Temple irreverently, completely losing site of the sacredness of the Temple, which is built to be God’s house, and where the people come to offer sacrifices and prayers. And Jesus’ awareness of this is keenly personal: it is His own “Father’s house” where He came to be with His Father in a special way: imagine if strangers walked into your family home and turned it into a store. Moreover, it was near Passover, the holiest time of the year when the most important prayers and sacrifices were offered in the Temple: imagine strangers setting up shop in your family home during Christmas dinner.
But even more than that, Jesus was looking to the future, to another Passover when he himself would be the New Passover sacrifice, and His own Body would be the new Temple. And in the way the Temple merchants were abusing the Temple he recognized a foreshadowing of how others would treat his Body on the day of the New Passover: “‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’…he was speaking about the temple of his body.”
But it’s important to also remember, as angry as he was at these people, he still loved them. In fact, he died for them, and on the Cross said of them, “Father, forgive them.”
As we contemplate this dramatic Gospel text, remember that there are some things that it is right to be angry about, e.g., terrorist atrocities. But we must always be careful to control anger with reason, with justice and truth, never allowing our passions to control us, but always controlling our passions. And always remembering to love our enemy, as Christ loved them on the Cross.
And as we meditate on Christ’s zeal for the Temple, let it remind us that every time we enter a Catholic church, especially our own beautiful cruciform church, it is a sign and place of the sacrifice of His Body on the Cross. So that passing through the doors we may always be absorbed with profound awe, reverence and love as we come to stand at the foot of the Cross. This Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the New Passover of Jesus in this holy temple of St. Raymond’s, may we be ever more aware of and draw deeper into the mystery of His sacrificial love.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles