may we be always lifted up by your mercy.
Today’s first reading, from the Book of Exodus, and the Gospel, point towards respect for the law, for what is sacred. The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelite people by God for their benefit. The first three concern our creaturehood and our relationship to the Creator: loving God with all our heart, our soul, and all our mind. Numbers 4 to 10 refer to our interpersonal relationships, how we are to treat one another: loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
The Psalmist explains some of the qualities of the law of the Lord: it refreshes the soul; gives wisdom to the simple; rejoices the heart; and enlightens the eye. “Rather than being a burden, the observed law adds a savor to life and provides a sound set of values” (Roland Faley). In another Psalm it reads:
“Blessed the one who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night” (Ps 40).
Connecting the Commandments to Jesus, it is important to remember that he was a Jew and thus well versed in God’s law.
In fact, it was his reverence for the law that brought him to Jerusalem for Passover, the greatest of the Jewish feasts, and it was his respect for the sacredness of the event that led him to do some basic spiritual ‘spring cleaning’ in the Temple area where the opposite of reverence was taking place. Bishop Robert Barron throws some light on Jesus’ action:
“We have here the most famous example of the righteous anger of Jesus. We must never interpret the wrath of the Lord as an
The great scripture scholar, William Barclay, suggests there were three reasons why Jesus acted as he did:
- The desecration of God’s house
- The noise it made resulted in people not having the quiet they needed to pray.
- Pilgrims to the Passover who could ill afford the fee for the feast were being fleeced at an exorbitant rate by the money-changers (who Jesus called “a den of robbers”). It was a rampant social injustice – and what was worse, it was being done in the name of religion!
In the second reading, St. Paul speaks of the great paradox: the cross of Christ, which appears to human eyes as weak and foolish, is from God’s part strength and wisdom. The cross effects deliverance from sin through an act of love and mercy.
The cross isn’t a sign of defeat but rather one of victory!
God of love and mercy,
Giver of all good gifts including
laws that help us to know what
You wish of us,
give us the wisdom to work for
peace and justice with compassion
and passionate commitment.
Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.
March 8, 2021