“Moses Breaking the Tablets” (detail) by Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Liberation from Slavery

Are you living well? Are you living in Christ? Or perhaps you have lost your way… become enslaved to sin. We must never take life in Christ for granted.

The Book of Exodus, from which today’s first reading is taken, is the story of how God liberated the people of Israel from Egypt. In a deeper, more important sense, it is the story of their liberation from the bondage of sin.

The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) had experienced four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. Not only had they lost their freedom, but they also lost their way – no longer living according to God’s design and no longer even worshiping God. The first part of the Book of Exodus is the story of their escape into the wilderness of the Sinai Desert. But, the second part of the book is about the reason God led them there by Moses.

The Chosen People needed to be retaught right-living and right-worship. Through Moses, God entered into a covenant relationship with the Israelites, forming them into a Holy Nation. The tablets of the Law, the Decalogue we just heard proclaimed, is the sign of that covenant.

The Ten Commandments were never arbitrary rules and regulations imposed on a weak people by a higher authority. Instead, they contained the Truth about the right relationships – how we are to relate to God and how we are to relate to one another. These are the deep truths of right-living – the law of love.

God followed these moral teachings with the gift of the liturgy, how He desires us to offer worship to Him and the proper setting for that worship in a fallen world.

Right-living and right-worship. Knowing who we are and what we were created for in this life and the life to come are the necessary prerequisites for living authentic, full, and satisfying lives.

In a fallen world, the history of God’s Chosen People continued in cycles of fidelity and infidelity to God and His plan. Even after the covenant through King David, sin and death reigned.

Cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus overturn the money changers’ tables and drive them out of the Temple. They had yet again, allowed sin and idolatry to enter their hearts, even into the precincts of the Temple. The Jews demanded a sign for His authority to do this and Jesus proclaimed that the only sign they would be given is His own resurrection from death on the Cross. That is what he meant by rebuilding the temple three days after its destruction.

So many of those who were religious leaders of Israel refused to recognize the visitation of their God. Jesus is the great prophet they had looked for following the death of Moses. Jesus is the King and Priest who would restore the Davidic Kingdom. But, they had allowed so much clutter and junk to fill their hearts and minds that they could not recognize their own God.

Cleansing the Temple in our Souls

By His life, passion, death and resurrection, Jesus mediated a New and Everlasting Covenant in which He formed the Church – the Family of God. He restored us to new life, a share in the Divine Life, a life of grace through faith in which we can truly live and worship according the design of God. He provides grace sufficient for an authentic, satisfying life, lived fully.

This leads us to a very important question for Christians.

Am I living well? Am I living the fullness of life or have I, like those who lived under the old covenants of Moses and David, filled up my heart and soul with sin and idolatry? Am I in need of a cleansing by the Lord?

Only In Christ

It is only through life in Christ that we can live our purpose and please God. But, too many Christians seek satisfaction and happiness in new cars, better jobs, more money and love in all the wrong places. Only the Bread of Life, not all this other stuff, can fill the hunger we experience.

St. Paul reminds us forcefully in today’s second reading of the power of life in Christ. We proclaim Christ crucified – the power and wisdom of God that defeats death and brings us new life. A stumbling block to Jews and folly to gentiles, St. Paul says that Christians know better.

Do you know better? Do you know what Paul knew?

Life in Christ is so simple, we sometimes over-complicate and confuse it.

We do not need to experience the patterns of faith and faithlessness of the past. In the New Covenant, God offers us the grace of salvation and new life in Christ. This new life begins with belief and Baptism and is nourished by living the sacramental life of the Church. Remain in a state of grace. Go to confession, worship at Mass, receive Holy Communion,

More than imitate Christ, we simply live Christ. St. Paul proclaims in Philippians 1:21 that to live is Christ and to die is gain. How do we live Christ? By receiving His sanctifying grace, again, principally through the sacraments.

The more grace we receive, the more perfectly we will love God.

The more grace we receive, the more perfectly we will love one another.

The more grace we receive, the more secure our hope will be.

The more grace we receive, the stronger our faith will be.

The more grace we receive, the more we will look like the Lord.

Do people see the Lord when they look at you?

As we offer worship in the Eucharist and receive the Lord into our hearts today, surrender in trust to the Him so that we will die to self and allow Christ to live more fully in us.

Into the deep…

The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent (Year B) are: Exodus 20:1-17 or 20:1-3, 7-8, 1; Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 11; First Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25.

Deacon Bickerstaff is available to speak at your parish or event. Be sure to check out his Speaker Page to learn more. Into the Deep is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

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