Third Sunday in Lent

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Third Sunday in Lent
Ex 20:1-17
1 Cor 1:22-25
John 2:13-25

Bargaining

The gospel for this third Sunday of Lent shows a side of Jesus we don’t see in any other reading. He is upset. He is angry. Jesus arrives at the temple in Jerusalem and sees a marketplace instead of a sacred place. Jesus takes a whip and chases the money changers, sellers and animals from the temple. He tells them, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

In the Old Testament (and even today) the temple was recognized as a sacred place, a place where God was close to the people. Offering sacrifice to God was always important when done sincerely. It was a way of telling God that the Covenant between God and the Israelites was not always lived out as it should have. It was a way to offer who they were and ask for God’s forgiveness and help to begin again.

Over time, the sacrifices were often seen as a bargaining chip. I buy a sheep or a dove and offer it so that I earn forgiveness or help. There is nothing we can offer to God to get something in return. God’s love and forgiveness are given freely. God’s sacred presence is always with us if we are open to it. There is no way to earn it.

I wonder how many of us use the bargaining chip with God. Have you ever prayed in such a way that you promised God you would go to daily mass for all of Lent if God would heal your aunt’s cancer? Have you prayed that the Browns win the game so the city can feel good about itself? Have you begged God to help you get a new job so your family will be better off? There are many blatant and subtle ways that we still use bargaining in our relationship with God.

As humans it is not wrong to ask God for favors or blessings but we must always realize that God’s goodness to us is not negotiable. God will provide what we need even if it’s not what we want. Faith in God and trust in God’s blessing for us are needed as well as openness to acceptance.

The first reading gives us the Ten Commandments. There’s no negotiation here. They are a roadmap to how we are to live our lives. 1 Corinthians tells us that all that comes to us is really the wisdom of God. Jesus became human so Jesus knows what it means to be a human being, to suffer pain, to have his expectations altered and to have to face death. He knew all that in his heart. This is the God who is with us today. This is the God who loves us unconditionally and forgives our human weakness. This the God to whom we give our all – not some bargaining chip!

How would you describe your prayer life?

In what ways can you daily give the real you to God, especially during this Lenten season?

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