I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Christ’s crucifixion binds us together as beloved children of God

The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent focus on what the heart sees but the eyes don't.

In the Book of Exodus, God communicates His covenant to His people in order to form them into a community of love. To do this, they will need a common set of teachings and beliefs, hence the Ten Commandments.

This set of beliefs, if lived, will bind them to their God but also establish Godly principles in their heart, and these principles will unite them into a community.

Notice that God doesn't focus their attention on getting water and food in the desert. The scarcity of food and water is a blessing, because it unites them with common essential needs. God uses their hunger to open their eyes to the unseen needs of their spirits.

If God can feed, water and form this huge mass of humanity into a community, then perhaps He is someone to whom they should listen.

He first establishes that He brought them out of Egypt, and they aren't to worship any false gods. "For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love and keep my commandments."

It seems right now that mercy is a greater value than food, water, and having their own homes and land to till. They remember clearly that back in Egypt there was no mercy, only the cruelty of slavery.

If God could bring them out of that slavery, then perhaps His words deserve a hearing.

Not only are they not to worship false gods, but also they are to keep holy the name of God. They're always to hold in reverence God who has done everything for them. In addition, they're to keep holy the Sabbath. On this day, they refrain from work so that they can contemplate what God has done and desires to do for them.

Evidently, God has in mind for them a common reward, which later they will see as a banquet in the sky, set in front of their enemies. A banquet signifies unity, peace and rest. To help them embrace these ideals, He proposes laws that will help them bring about this unity. He enjoins them not to kill, steal, lie or commit adultery.

These invitations show the Israelites that God has a plan to make them one large and loving community, presided over by God, who brought them out of slavery. These teachings nurture their hearts with meaning, and help them focus on a future that is above anything that their eyes could ever desire. Only their hearts can buy into this package. It offers nothing for the flesh except freedom from its unruly demands.

The responsorial psalm reinforces this. "The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple." It states that the "ordinances of the Lord are true, all of them just. They are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold; sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb."

When values such as these are put into poetry first, then into song and sung by a community, they take root in the heart, and not only bond the people to each other and to God, but these values also flow into virtuous actions.

The Gospel shows us Jesus cleansing the temple. He overthrew the moneychangers' tables, saying they had made His Father's house a marketplace. No longer is worship in the temple focused on giving glory to God but on making money: "You have made my Father's house a den of thieves."

When we don't allow the word of God to lift our eyes and our hearts above what we see, feel, touch and consume, then it has lost its value. Since Jesus is the Word, God's justice explodes in the temple when He shows them how they have subverted true worship. Later, He will open their eyes to see that the real temple isn't the one of stones, but that of His body, which He raised up on the third day.

Paul's letter to the Corinthians is the glue that holds together the first and third readings. "Brothers and sisters, Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles."

In the first reading, God raised their eyes above the material world, but in the Gospel, many Jews abandoned those values. However, Christ crucified brings the victory to both Jews and Gentiles. Christ's crucifixion triumphs all human failure. Christ's crucifixion destroys human weaknesses and binds repentant sinners as beloved children of God.

Heaven is intended for repentant sinners. If no sinners were allowed, Mary would be the only one there. God wants to lavishly flood the world with repentance so that for eternity part of Satan's suffering will be witnessing the joy of sinners who refused to take his bait.

In Lent, we should invite Jesus to do violence to our sinful patterns. Ask Him to help you take out our inner trash! In prayer, agree with Him every day on something that must go. 

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