Third Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018
In any lasting relationship there are good days, okay days, and bad days. Clearly this is a bad day in the relationship of Jesus and the Jews. Jesus loses it! It’s the only Gospel story, that I can recall, where Jesus gets really angry.
Jesus was upset because the animal sacrifice system of the temple and religion in general had been reduced to a system of barter: “I will do this for you, God, if you will do that for me.” We still do it today.
How often is your prayer an attempt to bargain with God? Are your Lenten promises a thinly veiled attempt to cut a deal for God’s favor? If it’s been a good Lent day, you feel justified in asking God for a favor, but if you’ve done poorly, or made a serious mistake, you feel unworthy to ask for anything.
No, the covenant of love relationship with God doesn’t work that way, and a barter-like, bargaining approach to prayer is not sustainable. Rather, we’ve got to love God for who God is, not for what God gives. We’ve got to love one another for who we are, not for what we can do for each other. . . . easy to do on good days, relatively easy on okay days, but especially important to do on bad days.
So, I think our gospel story leaves us with two questions:
Let those questions ruminate in your head and heart, but stay with me as we look at our first reading.
Raise your hand if you can recite all ten commandments, in order. No, just kidding. Don’t worry, you’ll see them in this week’s bulletin.
The Ten Commandments, as we heard, address two relationships: our relationship with God, and our relationship with each other. In both, God longs to free us from all things that bind us. Did you hear in the reading, “I am the Lord your God who frees you from slavery . . . don’t have other gods besides me.”
Don’t create an image of me and cast it in stone, for that will only bind and burden. Don’t make me into your image and likeness. It’s just the opposite. You are created in my image and likeness. And that image and likeness is relationship! It’s yearning to connect with other. It’s not physical, it’s relational.
I believe the Ten Commandments were in the back of his mind when Jesus gave two of his most profound teachings:
Over time, then, how do we have more good days than bad in this lasting covenant love relationship between God and ourselves? How do we live the Great Commandment and Eight Beatitudes? Our faith holds up three channels for learning and growth:
Your heartfelt reflection on these questions will reveal God’s covenant relationship here and now. Yes, it’s thousands of years old, but it’s also fresh and new and available.
If you are like me, you also need real life role models here and now to show us the way.
And so, I want to mention two people who have become a role model of covenant love for me. They are deeply in love, and engaged to be married this summer. What a privilege it is for me to journey with them in their marriage preparation. Why? Because they get it. They get this covenant relationship thing! They get that on June 9, they will not only pledge lifelong love to one another, they will also pledge to all of us that they will do all they can to be a real human model of God’s gracious, covenant love for us. And they also know that we, in return, will pledge to them our ongoing support, compassion, and solidarity.
At the end of Mass, we will raise our hands in blessing for Christie Costello and Matt Salazar, and we will be grateful to them, and all the others in our lives who have shown us, modeled for us, given us a glimpse of the kind of love God calls us to live . . . whether on a good day, an okay day, or a bad day.
Your homework? Take time to answer any one of the five questions I’ve posed today: