HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: THE PURIFICATION OF THE TEMPLE
BY: Fr Cyril Unachukwu CCE
The Christian life is always in need of renewal and this renewal is certainly reached through a process of purification and this process of purification is central to the Season of Lent. May we be renewed, and together with us the entire Church, through our observance of the purificatory Lenten disciplines and may this renewal lead us to bear abundant fruits, fruits that will last; Amen.
The Gospel Reading of today (Jn 2:13-25) recounts the action of Jesus Christ in the Temple popularly referred to as the ‘Purification of the Temple.’ The above expression connotes Jesus’ complete refutation of all the wrong things that was going on in the Temple and His determination to restore order as was manifested in His actions. This restoration of order has at its center a change of the mentality that sees little or no connection between the offerings placed on the altar and the daily lived experience. A mentality that is focused on the routine adherence to ritual laws without any corresponding influence on the person. The temple, instead of being a place where God meets with His people became a place of distraction, discrimination and sycophancy. How true is the expression; “this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mt 15:8). This was the background behind the revolution we heard in the Gospel reading; “destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.” Re-emphasizing His replacement motif in the Gospel of John, Jesus introduces a New Order. Not a New Order that totally abrogates the old order inaugurated through Moses and consolidated by the gift of the Ten Commandments as we read in the First Reading (Ex 20:1-17), but an Order that fulfills in a superabundant way the Old Order, “for the law was given through Moses; but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17). Jesus Christ stands for everything which the Temple signifies and in Him is the fullness of the relationship and communion with God which the Temple stands for. In Him can we truly encounter God! Hence, much more than the temple that was an edifice; it is Christ who is the Sanctuary, the Altar, the Sacrifice and the One who offers the Sacrifice. Jesus Christ is God (Jn 20:28)! Jesus Christ is all in all (Col 3:11)! Indeed, the Church rightly designates herself as ‘the Body of Christ’ and all of us are members of that body, and as members of that body we are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 6:19).
To truly be a living temple of the Living God, we must always open ourselves to the grace of purification; the grace that flows from the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the power of the Cross. The grace of purification renews! It is this power that keeps us firmly rooted in the New Order consolidated in the blood of the Lamb. In a world distracted by many false gods and ideologies just like it was for the Jews and the Greeks of the time of Saint Paul, Jesus Christ remains “the power and the wisdom of God” (I Cor 1:22-25). It is this power that purifies and renews! We must always remember that “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” It is this encounter that we renew within us during this Season of Lent. This encounter renews us; removing from our path whatever obstructs our movement towards God like the tables of the money changers in the Temple and giving us a place in the only Sanctuary that is the source of our salvation, in Jesus Christ the Lord. This renewal is brought about by the purifying effects of the Holy Spirit.
May our Lenten observance be a moment of purification and renewal and may this renewal lead us to a daily experience of the God that has always invited us to Himself; Amen. Happy Sunday;
Fr Cyril Unachukwu CCE