Saturday, March 3, 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B, 04.03.2018

Exodus 20:1-17 / 1 Cor 1:22-25 / John 2:13-25

I can’t say if I am imagining things or what, but it seems to me that quite a number of people are down with flu-like symptoms – cough, sore-throat, running-nose, headache.

Maybe because I was having all these over the past week, and so that’s making me imagine that many others are also afflicted. After all misery needs company. So I would like to think that I am not the only one who is under the weather.

But also with those festive “goodies” like pineapple-tarts, bak kwa, cookies and all those “sinful” food, how not to come down with cough, sore-throat, running-nose, headache? So I don’t think I am imagining.

But imagination aside and not wanting to lose my voice over the weekend, I went to the Chinese medical hall to see what quick remedy there can be for my misery. And the shop attendant recommended me a pre-packed combination of herbs in a plastic box.

As I was looking at the contents in the box, I was rather alarmed to see what looks like a beetle, with wings and all, nicely packed with the other contents. I presumed that the quality control failed, and that’s how that beetle got in there.

But the attendant said that it was part of the herbal combination and when it is brewed properly, it is very effective for voice-loss and sore-throat.

People complain when there is a fly in their soup. I am going to have a beetle in my brew. Chinese remedies are just so strange. Anyway I decided to give that beetle-brew a try. I guessed it worked, since I can be here preaching. But I have to admit that drinking the beetle-brew feels rather squirmish, and it tastes yukky-yuks.

In today’s gospel, what Jesus did may make us squirm a bit. The usually gentle, compassionate, merciful Jesus has become a whip-lashing, Indiana Jones-style, driving out sheep and cattle, scattered the money-changers coins, knocked their tables over, and not sparing the pigeon-sellers.

That is a very angry and violent Jesus, and like the people who were doing business in the Temple courtyard, we too would be alarmed and disturbed by His actions.

But it was not an impulsive act. As Jesus made the whip out of some cord, He knew what He was going to do and He intended to make His actions felt.

And He stated His reason for doing this: “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.”

The market was just the façade. The reality was that there was wheeling-and-dealing, cheating and bribing, injustice and extortion. All that carried out under the pretext of religious requirements, and with the knowledge and condoned by the Temple authorities.

With that kind of corruption in the Temple, Jesus had to do something drastic. Corruption was happening right at God’s house. He had to cleanse the Temple, so that the ordinary people can come and truly worship God and offer a worthy sacrifice.

Sin and corruption had to be driven out and cleansed before true worship can take place.

Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus takes a serious stand against sin and corruption. Jesus is the Head and we are members of His Body. We gather as members of His Body to offer worship to God at Mass.

And He knows each of us. He knows what each of us has in us. The true character of a person is not what he does when others are looking but by what he does when no one is looking.

And so we have to look at ourselves and acknowledge the sin and corruption that is within us, and to let Jesus cleanse us of that sin and corruption.

That is why it is necessary to do an “Examination of conscience” at least once a day, so that that we can see for ourselves what are our sins and our faults.

And that’s why it is also necessary to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession. It is a healing Sacrament, because Jesus forgives and cleanses us of our sins so that we can be reconciled with God.

If we know that there is rubbish in our hearts, then why are we not getting rid of it? Why are we letting that sinful rubbish corrupt our lives and corrupt our worship of God?
There is this story about St. Jerome. He was the one who translated the Hebrew scriptures into the Latin Vulgate. One day he had a vision of Jesus, and he was in ecstasy, and so he exclaimed : Lord, I want to give You all my intelligence, all my time, all my energy, my life even.
Jesus replied : Good, I don't need all that.
St. Jerome became a bit upset and so he asked : Lord Jesus, then what do You want from me?
Jesus said : I want your sins. Give me all your sins.

Yes, Jesus wants us to surrender our sins to Him so that He can cleanse us and that we can offer worthy worship to God. With a clean heart, we can offer worthy worship and hence, receive blessings from God.

In surrendering our sins to Jesus, the Lord our God says this to us: For I will restore your health and heal you of your wounds (Jeremiah 30:17)

Our sins and our spiritual corruption have caused us to be spiritually weak and maybe even physically afflicted. So let us go for Confession and let Jesus cleanse our souls.

Let us also do penance to invoke God’s healing grace. There is no need to drink some beetle-juice concoction to bring about cleansing and healing. The Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving will accomplish that.

Let our prayer and worship be from humble and contrite hearts so that God’s House will truly be a House of prayer and that we, the People of God, will truly be a people of prayer and a channel of God’s blessings for the world.