First Reading Commentary
The Ten Commandments are a summation of the natural law. Actually, one could reduce these ten phrases to the two principles of charity as Jesus did: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew , 39).
The Author of the Ten Commandments is clear throughout by the title, “Your God.” That title alone intimates that there should be a willingness on our part to entrust our heart and soul to Him.
The Commandment against carving idols can certainly be taken literally but in this day and age carving is perhaps a symbolic word for embracing. God’s intelligent creation has become secularized in today’s world. Money, power, owning the latest and greatest in technology are some examples of the idols we carve today. They are not idols within themselves, but when they become something we can’t part with under any circumstances, we then remove God from the Center of our life and place Him on a shelf or in extreme cases, eliminate Him completely.
The Sabbath does not mean that for one day per week we should focus on God and then push Him aside the other six days. The Sabbath is the day that we worship God with greater fervor, reserving that day for Him – worshipping Him and resting in Him. The apostles authorized Sunday as the Christian Sabbath in order to commemorate the mysteries of our Savior’s Resurrection.
“A long life in the land” is a reward that is temporal in nature but in Christian reflection it points to an eternal reward. Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, and because of that, the definition of killing in civil law is no longer absolute. Defenders of abortion do not believe that it is the killing of humanity’s most innocent and defenseless creatures. But Jesus exposed our real enemy during His forty days in the desert. Our enemy is not the Supreme Court or Catholic, pro-choice politicians. Our enemy is the one who tempted Jesus unsuccessfully. Unfortunately, human beings are not so strong and are capable of succumbing to diabolical schemes. And what better place for him to prowl around than in the human institutions that govern God’s people!
Humanity has gone from one extreme to the other when it comes to adultery. In the ancient world adultery was punishable by death. Today, “what’s the big deal” seems to be the prevailing attitude. We’ve lost that sense of sin. And while it’s fair to say that the enemy’s prey on humanity is at the root of immorality, we, however, are not blameless because the enemy would not be so influential if we had a closer union with our Lord. But Lent calls us to exactly that! Lent is a time to recognize that the relationship with God must take the highest priority -- always. Our sojourn in the desert could be an unfavorable plight if we choose to walk through it without Jesus.
Second Reading Commentary
Things are not so terribly different today than they were when
was preaching and writing. Christ crucified is still something that
humanity has not come to terms with. Our
Lord’s crucifixion is indeed a stumbling block to many believers in God because
God dying is a difficult image to take hold of.
And certainly, the level of secularism that our culture absorbs
dismisses it all as foolishness. Saint Paul
Human wisdom, a gift from God, unfortunately can be arrogant. A failure to understand the ways of God is something that is true of every human being. No one fully grasps God’s ways but arrogance dismisses it as untrue. Humility, however, accepts it in faith because if we can daresay that God has any foolishness, He is still wiser than any human being that has ever existed or will exist. And if we daresay that God has a weakness, He is certainly more powerful than our greatest strengths.
The divinity of Jesus is not known by the people at this point. If they know anything about Him, it is that He is the Son of Joseph and Mary. How then, did Jesus succeed as virtually a one Man army by forcing them all out of the temple area? Saint John Chrysostom deduces that there had to be something in our Lord’s conduct that was divine. Since no resistance was offered by the moneychangers, they must’ve been unknowingly held back by the Hand of God.
Origen, one of the early Church writers, considers this event a miracle. Because it is Lent, though, and our Lord motions us to come to Him, that we may have a more intimate union with Him, consider this story interiorly. In the One Person of Jesus Christ, there is the human will fully conformed to the divine will. Jesus is showing us what He will do if we are conformed to the divine will. Our soul is a temple; and we all know that some are more conformed to the will of God than others. But that is the gift of free will which our Lord does not invade because that would not be love. But when we are committed to the Lord, Jesus is the Hand of God that holds back what is detrimental.
Remember that our soul is God’s property, not our own. In this Gospel story, the temple is also God’s property as Jesus refers to it as “My Father’s house.” Thus the human will of Jesus desires what God desires, and because of that, the divine will of Jesus casts out what is not of God. Unlike Jesus, however, we don’t always conform to the will of God. That’s why we have the Sacrament of Confession. Our temple is eternal; it is not made of bricks or stone but by the Hand of God. And when we exercise our free will by conforming to the will of God, then God will see to it that our temple is a place fit for Him to dwell.
Jesus does something very physical in casting out these corrupt businessmen but the spiritual and mystical value of what He did is far more important for us to grasp. The soul of man is the house of God; and Jesus, as prophesied by the Book of Psalms, is consumed with zeal for our soul.
Another prophet also proclaims something pertinent to this: “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7). Hence, the soul is designed to have a close union with the Lord which comes through prayer, and very intimately from the Eucharist.
Today there is evidence of a highly secularized culture obsessed with the need for material goods and wealth. And now headlining the news are the insecurities about our financial future. Has the soul of man become a marketplace instead of the house of prayer for which it was made? Should we reflect on this Gospel and conclude or at the very least suspect that the core of our troubles as a people of God are rooted in our attraction to temporal joys and seemingly secure enticements, instead of turning towards Jesus and seeing Him as our eternal security?