If I were to ask you how many days there are in March, how would you know without looking at our phone?
Yes, many of us older folks would remember the little rhymn: 30 days has September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31 except February which has 28. I’m not sure when I learned that, but it sure helps in planning.
On this 3rd Sunday of our Lenten journey, it is important for us to realize that everything that the Church is doing is pointing us on this first Sunday in March to the last day of March, the great Easter Vigil. that is ushered in beginning Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
If we don’t have this night constantly in the back of our minds, we are not looking at the other 40 days correctly. All of our readings and rituals are geared to our dying and rising with Jesus of Nazareth, of entering more deeply his life, death and resurrection.
If we have the end in mind, we can more deliberately live the present. If we can see that our goal is heaven, then we can more fully realize the extra-ordinary gift of living each day as a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.
In John’s Gospel, unlike the Synoptics – Matthew, Mark and Luke – Jesus bursts on the scene at the beginning of his public ministry with a prophetic action like Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
In an upending of “life as usual,” Jesus sends a different message. On the day Jesus makes his first public appearance in Jerusalem, he takes on the religious establishment for perverting the core symbol of God’s presence among the people, the temple, by make what was intended to be a place of communion with God into a business venture.
Yet, Jesus’ cleansing of the temple was more than just a violent reaction against attempts to sell grace. It was actually his first proclamation about who he was and what his mission would entail.
Jesus did what he did in the temple because he believed he was the Son of a loving God who wanted nothing more nor less than the whole heart of the chosen people – as we heard in the first reading of our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday: “Return to me, says the Lord with you whole heart.”
When he walked into the temple, his faithfulness demanded that he act our God’s judgment on what was happening there – no matter the cost to himself.
Zeal for his Father’s house consumed him. Zeal is a word meaning “passionate integrity” that would define Jesus’ entire ministry.
What about you and me? Are we filled with zeal for the Gospel? Does our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus really mean anything to us? Does it shape and fashion our daily lives, thoughts and actions? Does it enter into our decisions about how we spend our time, use our talents and spend our money?
Who and what are we “zealous” for?
Have we allowed the Ten Commandments thundered on Mount Sinai to become merely the ten suggestions or the ten opinions? Do they really have any impact on our life at work, at home, at the bank?
This is why we have Lent, to cleanse the mediocrity of our lives, of our relationship with God and with one another, most especially in our marriages and families.
So let’s be brutally honest with ourselves this 3rd Sunday of Lent. What tables needs to be turned over in our lives? It’s not about chocolate. It’s about character. It’s about radical transformation of our lives. It’s about driving out from our thoughts, words and actions that which cheapens the sublime gift of our baptism.
So what is it? What needs to change? What needs to be confronted and challenged no matter what it takes, no matter how many times we have to ask forgiveness, no matter how embarrassing it may be? Are you and I willing to allow Jesus into the temple of our souls, turning over, driving out all that is not worthy of the Father’s presence?
This is the challenge of sacred Scripture this first Sunday in March that is pointing us to the last days of March, the Paschal Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.
Will we have zeal, that passionate integrity, to let Jesus lead us?
Will we proclaim Christ crucified who to so many in our world today see only as foolishness and a stumbling block?
Will we proclaim the foolishness of God that is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God that is stronger than any human strength?
Will we allow Jesus to upend what the world tells us who we are and what we should be about? Will we allow his zeal to be ours and let it consume us?
May it be so!