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This Sunday's Programme

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3rd Sunday Lent B

Sunday 3rd March 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Jn 2: 13-25

When Passover time came round, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found cattle, sheep and dove traders, as well as money changers sitting around. Making a whip out of small cords, he drove the lot out, both cattle, sheep, the traders, and he threw away the money and overturned the tables of the money changers. To the people who sold the doves he said: ‘Get these things out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’
This reminded his disciples of the scripture: ‘Zeal for your house has devoured me.’
Then the Jews reacted, saying: ‘What gives you the right to do these things?’
Jesus answered them saying: ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.’
The Jews responded: ‘Forty six years it took to build this temple and are you going to raise it up in three days?’
But he was talking about the temple of his body. When he was risen from the dead, the disciples remembered what he had said and they believed the scriptures and the words Jesus had said.

Now while they were in Jerusalem, many people came to believe in his name after seeing the signs that he did but he did not entrust himself to them because he knew what they really were like. He didn’t need to be told about any person, he could tell what was in each one.

 

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 18: 8-11

The law of God is perfect,
restoring the soul.
The word of God is faithful,
making the simple, wise.

The laws of God are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The instruction of God is pure,
enlightening the eyes.

The fear of God is cleansing,
enduring forever.
The judgements of God are true,
each and every one just.

All of these are more desirable than gold,
the finest, glistering gold,
and sweeter than honey,
honey dripping from the comb.

 

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, when we come together to pray you transform us into the Body of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit.  Enliven our minds and hearts to this mystery. May we glory in the calling that you have given us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

This incident, the cleansing of the Temple of traders, is one of the few events recorded in all four Gospels.  The synoptics place the event at the end of Jesus’ ministry recounting the expulsion the traders, the challenge by the religious authorities and Jesus’ declaration of the temple being a place of prayer. All of these elements are in John’s version but in his narration the event has a deeper symbolism than just another confrontation with the religious authorities.

This second sign follows the one given at the marriage feast of Cana.  There, at the request of Mary, the one obedient to God’s word, Jesus transforms water into wine. A symbolism at work here is that the ‘water’ of Jewish religious observance being transformed into the ‘wine’ of faith in Jesus.   Following this sign, Jesus goes to the centre of Jewish worship, the Temple, and attacks those who have debased the worship there.  There, traders and the religious authorities have used the justification of scrupulously following the Law to their material advantage.  Only animals and coins that met with their approval could be used in worship and they ensured that these were _their_ animals and coins, paid for by the worshiper.

The temple covered a large area; see the link in the Visual Meditation section to the painting by William Brassey Hole to get some idea of the place.   John, with the significant detail of Jesus’ making of the whip he used, stresses the deliberation that went into this action.  When confronted by the authorities, Jesus transforms the nature of the discussion.  The temple becomes a sign of his resurrection.  As he has restored worship to the temple, so his risen life will be the place where true worship takes place.

Directly following this event, is the meeting with Nicodemus, one of these religious authorities, where the discussion revolves around the transformation of faith and worship that has come with Jesus and the Spirit.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

One prominent politician often used to refer to the people of Australia as ‘consumers’. Notice how often this happens. Are you a consumer? I’m not. Yes, I do consume but that is only one of a myriad of things I do. In fact, I consume to ‘be’ other things of my life: a ‘pray’er, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a gardener, even a citizen of Australia. The tendency to define us as ‘consumers’ demeans us and confines the role we are to play in society.

Jesus’ anger in the temple was directed towards the religious authorities and merchants who had debased temple worship by monetary transactions. What should have opened people to the love of their God was reduced to outward observance according to their rules. No longer could a farmer bring his sheep for sacrifice – a blemish was sure to be found so he would be forced to buy a sheep from the Temple merchants. This is just one of the ways that the worship of God was being used and debased for personal gain.

‘Worship of God’, ‘being a citizen’ are extraordinary callings for each of us. They challenge us to be greater and better people. This is not easy. It is so much easier to follow rules than to grow as persons. The problem is that in such cases the rules will always multiply and ultimately serve the selfish needs of the few. We all need to be like Jesus, who entering the Temple, knew what the place was for: worship of God. He would not accept anything less.

 

 

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

Jesus gets angry! Boy, does he get angry! He even gets physically angry and his physical lashing out is premeditated.  Note it took him time to make that whip out of cords and he knew what he was doing.  Are you uncomfortable with that?  Why? Because we nearly all have issues with anger and the people who don’t have issues are usually people who often get angry with no sense of remorse.  We so much focus on the Jesus who goes to his death ‘like a trusting lamb’ that we fail to take seriously the times when Jesus gets angry.  This time in the temple is not the only one.  He gets angry with Peter, with the disciples and, oh, so often, with the religious authorities who were critical of him.  In these situations Jesus isn’t mildly displeased – he is genuinely angry.

So what is happening?  In all the cases of Jesus’ anger he is trying to break through to people set in their ways: Peter with his ideas on how Jesus should be Messiah, the disciples, jockeying for the best places, the people in the temple, smug in using the worship of God for monetary gain.  Nice reasonable discussion is not going to work with these people – they need the hot fire of anger to crack open their rigid shell.  Jesus’ behaviour offers us an insight into the use of anger.  When he thought people could be changed, he would use anger to try and get through to them.  When he knew they were set and closed, as with the religious authorities at his trial, he remained silent.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– This painting by Luca Giordano shows the determination of Jesus and the confusion he unleashes.
– Rembrandt’s Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple  also portrays a very determined Jesus. The faces of the traders betray the easy life they have had and their confusion at such fury directed towards them.
– In these paintings first by Casper Luiken  and then by William Brassey Hole we have some idea of the size of the Temple. It would have been no small task to clear such a large area of traders.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week, mull on the role of anger in your life. When does it arise? How do you express it, or not? Are you able this week just to watch how it works in your life and ponder how you could use it more positively?

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

When you are at rest, consider how you understand public worship. Given how routine plays such a part of that worship, do we fail to remember that we are the Body of Christ when we come together to pray? Take time to reflect on the community you pray with and remind yourself of the mystery you become when you gather.

Rest in the love of your God.