3rd Sunday of Lent. March 8th 2015.
Ex 20:1-3,7-8,12-17; 1Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25
The benefits of holy zeal
In her tenure as Director of the Ministry of Infrastructure in Cameroon, a country that is ranked 136 out of 177 for corruption by Transparency International, Patience Molle Lobe inevitably faced diverse forms of corruption. She had a choice to make – turn a blind eye, join in the corruption, or try to bring about change from within the system. She chose the latter option and opted to act with personal integrity while demanding that public accounts be properly balanced. She did this at great risks to her life as she survived three assassination attempts and disdain from others. This member of the Focolare movement highlighted the role of her Catholic faith in her zeal for public transparency and honesty: “Because if you believe of the Gospel, the Gospel is to be lived. If we believe of the Gospel, we believe that God loves us. And if we love, we live for the others. Really I can say I make the experience of providence every day.” She experiences divine providence in and through her zealous actions.
What does this zeal entail? To have zeal for the glory of God implies that we know and love God to the point that we are ready to take risks to increase His glory in others by making others know and love God more. Such zeal is the fruit of love that makes us seek the greater glory of the beloved at whatever cost.
In the Gospel, Jesus encountered the entrenched greed, empty worship, and exploitation of worshipers that were taking place in the Jerusalem temple. He too had a choice to make – turn a blind eye or make a difference from within the temple itself. His choice to cleanse the temple will set Him up against the powerful Jewish leaders, the influential rich and greedy money changers, and the many sellers of oxen, sheep and doves. Jesus could not have done something riskier in His earthly life than this. His adversaries never forgot this painful experience and will use it as a way of seeking Jesus’ condemnation during His Passion: “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.”(Mk 14: 58)
Why would Jesus take such a risk? Jesus took this risk because He was consumed by zeal for the Father’s glory: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”(Cf. Ps 69:10) The Psalmist in this psalm willingly risks the wrath of his loved ones and relatives in his zeal to proclaim the justice of God to all people and engender in them a greater knowledge and love for God: “For your sake I bear insult, shame covers my face. I have become an outcast to my kin, a stranger to my mother’s children.” (PS 69:8-9)
Consumed with zeal for the Father, knowing and loving Him perfectly, Jesus was willing to take any risk to make us know and love the Father more. The Father is glorified in us when we know and love Him as we ought to and are willing to make Him known and loved more by others. Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was to bring us to worship the Father as He worshipped the Father, a worship that is done in “spirit and truth” and focused on God alone and not on sordid gain.
What did He stand to gain from this act of confrontation with entrenched greed and empty worship in the temple? Did such action put an end to all forms of corruption and greed within the temple and win the temple leaders to Him? Most probably not. But in and through His zeal for the Father’s glory, He would experience the power of God to raise Him up from the grave: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Truly, the life of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, from the moment of His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary to His last moment on the Cross on Calvary, was a life of continuous risk taking so as to further the glory of the Father through our greater knowledge and love for God.
The Ten Commandments in the First Reading is also training for and a call to zealous living for the greater glory of God. Fidelity to the Commandments was also to make the Israelites a nation zealous enough to bring other nations to know and love God more. Speaking about the Commandments, Moses said
“Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’… Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” (Dt 4:6,8)
The same love for God that moves us to keep His Commandments (“If you love me, keep my Commandments) is meant to blossom to the point that we are zealous enough to take any risk so as to make others know and love Him more. Our love for God lacks authenticity as long as there is no firm desire to make Him better known and loved by others. And as we willingly take risks to make God better known and loved, we begin to reap the benefit of holy zeal – an experience of the loving action of God in our lives.
St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that “we proclaim Christ crucified … Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The power and wisdom of God that transformed our world is manifested in Christ Jesus because He was zealous enough to risk all things so as to make His Father better known and loved by all. This same power and wisdom of God will be manifested in us when we too are filled with a zeal that does not shirk in the face of sacrifices for the greater glory of God.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we too have a choice to make in our world today as we witness ethical relativism that easily reduces the Ten Commandments to “Ten Suggestions,” making them laws that we can change or modify based on culture or historical context. We have a choice to make in our current state of moral indifference where “Who am I to judge?” has become the common mantra when confronted with sin in our world. We have a choice to make as political correctness has made it difficult for us to echo the words of the Apostles, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
We may appear hopelessly equipped for faithful witness or unsure of results that may come by our witness in prayer, words, and good examples. These are moments to first of all examine the authenticity of our zeal for God and ask ourselves the following questions, “How am I striving to know and love God better in my life by living in His will? What am I ready to risk to make God better known and loved by others? Am I ready to put my reputation, comfort, wealth, fame, luxuries, etc on the line for the sake of zealous witnessing to God?” Secondly, we must remind ourselves that the only sure result that will come from such zealous action is that we shall know the power and wisdom of God in our lives.
Sharing in Christ’s own life in this Eucharist, we also share in His zealous love for the Father. May we willingly share in His openness to take any risk to make the Father known and loved the more so that we will know that indeed God is with us and He is a wise and powerful God.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!