Third Sunday of Lent

In today's Mass Readings we hear a famous and beautiful passage from the Book of Exodus, in which the sacred author tells of God’s presentation of the Decalogue to Israel. One detail makes an immediate impression: the announcement of the Ten Commandments is introduced by a significant reference to the liberation of the People of Israel. The text says: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20: 2).

Thus, the Decalogue is intended as a confirmation of the freedom gained. Indeed, at a closer look, the Commandments are the means that the Lord gives us to protect our freedom, both from the internal conditioning of passions and from the external abuse of those with evil intentions.

The “nos” of the Commandments are as many “yeses” to the growth of true freedom.

There is a second dimension of the Decalogue that should also be emphasized: by the Law which he gave through Moses, the Lord revealed that he wanted to make a covenant with Israel. The Law, therefore, is a gift more than an imposition. Rather than commanding what the human being ought to do, its intention is to reveal to all the choice of God: He takes the side of the Chosen People; he set them free from slavery and surrounds them with his merciful goodness. The Decalogue is a proof of his special love.

Today’s liturgy offers us a second message: The Mosaic Law was totally fulfilled in Jesus, who revealed God’s wisdom and love through the mystery of the Cross, “a stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor 1: 23-24).

The Gospel proclaimed refers precisely to this: Jesus drove the merchants and money-changers out of the temple. Through the verse of a Psalm: “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (Ps 69[68]: 10), the Evangelist provides a key for the interpretation of this significant episode. And Jesus was “consumed” by this “zeal” for the “house of God”, which was being used for purposes other than those for which it was intended.

To the amazement of everyone present, he responded to the request of the religious leaders who demand evidence of his authority by saying: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19). These are mysterious words that were incomprehensible at the time; John, however, paraphrased them for his Christian readers, saying “Actually, he was talking about the temple of his body” (Jn 2: 21).

His enemies were to destroy that “temple”, but after three days he would rebuild it through the Resurrection. The distressful “stumbling block” of Christ’s death was to be crowned by the triumph of his glorious Resurrection.

In this Lenten season, while we are preparing to relive this central event of our salvation in the Easter triduum, we are already looking at the Crucified One, seeing in him the brightness of the Risen One. (...)

Read more here.

Adapted from the Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI
Vatican Basilica, Third Sunday of Lent, 19 March 2006


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