Third Sunday in Lent [b]

Engaging Faith | Mon, Mar 5, 2012

By John Bucki, S.J.
Source: Center of Concern

Lectionary reflections for the third Sunday in Lent.

Third Sunday in Lent [b]

March 11, 2012


Exodus 20:1-17 or 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
John 2:13-25
[Some Catholic communities may opt to use the alternate A-cycle readings if they are celebrating the Scrutinies with the RCIA.]


March 11: Daylight Savings Time Begins in most of the U.S.
March 17: St. Patrick’s Day
March 19: St. Joseph’s Day


In the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world’s population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the “gaze” of Christ. 
-- Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2006

The Christian community [must offer]. . . gestures of creative solidarity, not only by ‘giving from one's surplus’, but above all by ‘a change of life-styles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies’. . . Effective means to redress the marginalization of the world's poor through globalization will only be found if people everywhere feel personally outraged by the injustices in the world and by the concomitant violations of human rights.
-- Benedict XVI, Fighting Poverty To Build Peace, January 1, 2009, #15

Faced with the tragic situation of persistent poverty which afflicts so many people in our world, how can we fail to see that the quest for profit at any cost and the lack of effective, responsible concern for the common good have concentrated immense resources in the hands of a few while the rest of humanity suffers in poverty and neglect?
-- John Paul II, 2003 Lenten Message

We must ask God, first of all, for conversion of heart, for it is in the heart that every form of evil, every impulse to sin is rooted; we must pray and fast for the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations.
-- John Paul II, Ash Wednesday Audience, 2003

The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need.
-- Saint Basil, fourth century theologian and monastic

"In the days ahead we must not consider it unpatriotic to raise certain basic questions about our national character.  We must begin to ask, 'Why are there forty million poor people in a nation overflowing with such unbelievable affluence? Why has our nation placed itself in the position of being God's military agent on earth...? Why have we substituted the arrogant undertaking of policing the whole world for the high task of putting our own house in order?'"
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Thoughts for your consideration

The gospel story of Jesus ‘purification of the temple’ paints Jesus as a reformer – as one who wants to renew the temple and human behavior.  Our Christian life is a journey of constant renewal.  In every age we are called to renew our personal life, the life of our church, and the life of our world.  Our social teaching calls us to a renewal of the values and actions that bind us together as human beings.

Jesus ‘purifies’ the temple, because values have gotten out of whack.  The economic and financial problems that have arisen in the last few years certainly invite us to reflect on our values that have gotten out of whack. 

Now may be a time to look at the values of our global world that need reform: 
* a financial system that has placed profits before human needs
* an economy that is leaving more and more people unemployed
* an economy that has created extreme inequalities between rich and poor
* a system that leaves us with more empty houses and more people without homes
* a global economy that has left billions of people in poverty
* a trading system that is biased against the developing world
* an economic system that keeps so many women and children without economic justice
* a system of international relationships that is based on military might and that resorts to war and the threat of war
* unjust conditions that force millions of people to leave their homes and cultures and become refugees and immigrants
* a health care system that does not offer its resources to everyone.

The list could go on and on.  What kind of reform would Jesus call us to today?

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

What are the things that need renewal or reform in our world?
Who are the “money changers or traders” that need to be driven out?
What would Jesus do if he entered “the temple” today?
What would Jesus do if he entered one of the “temples of our financial system” today?


Rule of Lao Tzu  -  Spiritual Story by Osho

Lao Tzu became very famous, a wise man, and he was without doubt one of the wisest men ever. The emperor of China asked him very humbly to become his chief of the supreme court, because nobody could guide the country's laws better than he could. He tried to persuade the emperor, "I am not the right man," but the emperor was insistent.

Lao Tzu said, "If you don't listen to me... just one day in the court and you will be convinced that I am not the right man, because the system is wrong. Out of humbleness I was not saying the truth to you. Either I can exist or your law and order and your society can exist. So... let us try it."

The first day a thief who had stolen almost half the treasures of the richest man in the capital was brought into the court. Lao Tzu listened to the case and then he said that the thief and the richest man should both go to jail for six months.

The rich man said, "What are you saying? I have been stolen from, I have been robbed what kind of justice is this, that you are sending me to jail for the same amount of time as the thief?"

Lao Tzu said, "I am certainly being unfair to the thief. Your need to be in jail is greater, because you have collected so much money to yourself, deprived so many people of money... thousands of people are downtrodden and you are collecting and collecting money. For what? Your very greed is creating these thieves. You are responsible. The first crime is yours."


Thoughts about the Exodus Reading

The selection from Exodus starts by reminding the people of the “exodus event.” Our God is a God who has liberated the people from slavery and led them to freedom.  Each of the ten commandments is an invitation to the renewal of our social relationships and not just our personal life. Each can be seen as a call to liberation for all. They call us to look at social sin and not just personal sin. When used well they can lead us to liberation for our whole community. 

* Doesn’t “You shall not have other gods besides me.” call us to turn away from the gods of wealth, social status, greed and military and political power?
* Doesn’t “You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.” remind us to respect God not just in our use of language but also in the language of our deeds and in our treatment of creation and one another?
* Doesn’t “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”  call us to avoid overwork and a preoccupation with possessions and money, but also to make sure that all people have the opportunity for rest and recreation and that all laborers are treated with respect and have the wages and time to live in dignity?
* Doesn’t “Honor your father and your mother.” challenge us to look beyond ourselves and to respect our elders and not just those related to us but also all of our elders, especially those who are poor or otherwise in need?  Doesn’t our social policy have to embody these values?
* Doesn’t “You shall not kill.” apply to nations as well as individuals?
* Doesn’t “You shall not commit adultery.” invite us to think about healthy relationships on all levels and about the social conditions that make family life difficult and the social norms that challenge healthy relationships of respect?
* Doesn’t “You shall not steal.” apply to corporations and governments as well as individuals?
* Doesn’t “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  call us to make sure that integrity is part of our public life?  Does it not apply to governments and other agencies?  Do we not have a right to expect our public institutions to operate in a transparent way?
* Doesn’t “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.” make us look beyond our own desires and respect the common good of the whole community?
* Doesn’t “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”  remind us to treat no human person as a possession for our use but a creation of God filled with dignity and entitled to respect?

Actions - Links

The Eco-Justice Program office of the National Council of Churches works to provide an opportunity to protect and restore God's Creation. Go to .  You can access their various Lenten reflections and find suggestions for taking action.

Environmental Defense Action Fund is the lobbying arm of Environmental Defense Fund, a leading environmental organization dedicated to educating the public about sound environmental policy and promoting lasting solutions to protect the environmental rights of all people. You can take actions online at

“Crazy Facts”

“More Americans said they struggled to buy food in 2011 than in any year since the financial crisis, according to a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit research group. About 18.6 percent of people -- almost one out of every five -- told Gallup pollsters that they couldn't always afford to feed everyone in their family in 2011.”

Prayers of Intercession

Response: Help us do what is right and good for all.
God, help us turn away from the gods of wealth, social status, greed and military and political power.  We pray….
God, help us to respect you and your creation and all its creatures.  We pray…..
God, help us move beyond a preoccupation with possessions and money and help us make sure that all people have the opportunity for rest and recreation and that all laborers are treated with respect and have the wages and time to live in dignity. We pray…..
God, help us to look beyond ourselves and to respect our elders, especially those who are poor or otherwise in need. We pray….
God, help our nations to live in peace and bring an end to all the killing. We pray…..
God, help us to have healthy and respectful relationships on all levels and to treat no person as an object or thing. We pray….
God, help us and help our government, our corporations, and all our institutions to work for the common good of all people, especially the poor, and not to take what is not right.  We pray……
God, help us to make sure that integrity and transparency to be part of our public life. We pray….
God, help us to look beyond our selfish desires and respect the common good of the whole community. We pray…..
God, help us to treat no human person as a possession for our use but a creation of God filled with dignity and entitled to respect. We pray…..

Prayer - Meditation

Find two prayers for justice at:

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of our land as your love would make it:

- a land where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
- a land where the benefits of civilized life are shared and everyone can enjoy them;
- a land where different races and cultures live in tolerance and mutual respect;
- a land where peace is built with justice and justice is guided by love.

And give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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