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Bishop's Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent

March 3, 2024

[St. Patrick Church, Kaimuki (Installation of Pastor); St. Ann Church, Kaneohe (Installation of Pastor)]

We all have deadlines.  A student can study a little bit every day, but when she knows there is an important test looming, she may cram, spending extra time and energy to study just before the test.  When we go on a trip, we may make many preparations, but it seems the most hectic time is the day we are actually leaving, and we realize there are so many things we have to do before we go.  We try to take care of our health as a normal part of life, but when there is an injury or illness to deal with, we go into high gear to restore what has been lost.

Jesus spend three years preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  God had spent centuries before that trying to do the same and even gave us Ten Commandments to guide us into life in that Kingdom.  But when Jesus’ time on earth was running short, he seemed to become more frenetic to make sure his message was heard and understood.  And so today we see him in his wild mode, screaming, yelling, overturning tables, and purifying the Temple of God so that it would be restored to what it was meant to be.  It had deteriorated to a place where people went to buy their ritual sacrifices rather than to offer themselves as sacrifices to the Lord by their way of life.  And Jesus knew it was time to raise his voice, so that this renewal in God would actually take place.

We are approaching the middle of Lent, this time in which we are called to drive out from the temple that each one of us is all that does not belong there.  We are temples of the Holy Spirit by virtue of our Baptism, and as we prepare to welcome our catechumens to Baptism and full initiation as temples of the Holy Spirit, we begin today to celebrate the Scrutinies with them, so that they can scrutinize themselves and cast out whatever defiles them, so that they can become worth temples of the Lord.  In a similar way, this Gospel reminds us that we, too, need renewal in that commitment we have already made, so that whatever remains in us of sin can be overturned and driven out.  It is time for Jesus to raise his voice and to let us know that we had better get more serious about going to confession to acknowledge our sins and to be filled with God’s mercy.  He pushes us urgently to examine ourselves according to the Commandments to see if we are doing anything that turns these temples of God that we are into dens of thieves.  Jesus does this because he knows the time is short.  When we stand up on Easter to renew our Baptismal Promises, to renounce Satan and all his empty promises, he wants us to be ready to do so honestly, not just with lip service but by showing that we have worked very hard to get our temples in order to more faithfully offer true worship to God by loving him and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

We see a world that is alarmingly turning away from God and turning in on itself, a world where worshipping God and keeping holy the sabbath is no longer a value.  Rather than bringing benefit to oneself, it is actually doing the opposite, so that we are seeing an increase in mental health issues, in suicides, and in conflicts and crimes against one another.  If we do not understand the basics of the first three Commandments, which pertain to love of God, we will never be able to live the other commandments that pertain to love of neighbor.  How will there be a change in this situation unless we who are the disciples of Jesus take up the task of urgently turning the tables of this self-destruction?  This is our mission, but we will never be effective unless we are first purified ourselves and become more and more like Jesus, who understood perfectly the blending of human and divine natures within us.  Just as he touted himself at the Temple that would be destroyed and raised up in three days, he calls each of us, and all of us together to be such a temple that urgently destroys sin and death, so that grace and life may flourish.  Yes, this is crunch time, the time to no longer dally in this task of purification, but to be open to the Lord’s discipline so that we may be restored as the temples where God and God alone is glorified.