Thoughts To Live By…

Posts Tagged ‘Lent

Cleansing the Temple by Carl Bloch

Jn 12:20-33 – Cleansing of the Temple
Third Sunday of Lent

The Temple played an important part in the life of Israel fundamentally because the Temple was considered God’s own house, His dwelling place on earth in the midst of his people. The Jews  believed that God lives in heaven, but he hears the prayers that are addressed to him in the Temple. The prophets, however, realized that God’s presence among his people was a favor that could be withdrawn if they proved unworthy of it.

Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the temple of Jerusalem not only because it was dwelling place of God on earth but most importantly it  is His Father’s house. It is not surprising,  therefore, to hear, in today’s Gospel, why Jesus burst with anger  upon learning that traders and money changers were turning the house of God into a “marketplace” or “den of robbers.” Worst, they had the guts to oppress and exploit the poor and the pilgrims even within the temple. Although it was considered the “outer part” of the temple it was still within the temple.

What is the message for us? What is the challenge for us?

First, a temple or a church buiding is sacred because it is God’s dwelling place here on earth. It is also considered sacred because it is dedicated and offered to God. It is also sacred because it is intended for the glorification of God and sanctification of His people. Hence, a temple of the Church as a place of worship and sacrifice must be treated with reverence and respect. As far as possible it must not be used for any secular purposes which are considered offensive to the Lord. Indecent clothing and foul words and irreverent gestures must be avoided at all times.

Second, a temple is the body of Jesus Christ. In today’s Gospel, it was Lord himself who explicitly referred to his body as the temple of God. Since it is the Church which is the mystical body of Christ, the Church or the community of Lord’s disciples is the temple of God. As Jesus himself said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.”

Considering this we can somehow say that prayer is effective when it is done in the name of Jesus and addressed by the whole assembly of the faithful. When you pray, therefore, pray in the name of Jesus in the Spirit. Pray as a Church. Pray in the Church. Pray with the Church. Pray for the Church. Pray with heart and mind of the Church. Always take an active part  in sacramental and liturgical life of the Church.

Third, our body is also a temple of God, a dwelling place of the Spirit. Like the temple or church building it must be treated with respect and reverence. Anything that defiles the body must be avoided. In the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, he said: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy,” (1Cor 3:16-17).

Today as gather as a worshiping assembly, let us always be reminded that the Church, the mystical body of Jesus Christ, is the Temple of God. Please be reminded also that we are temple of the Holy Spirit. Being members of this Church by virtue of our baptism we share in her vocation to holiness  and in her mission to work for the glorification of God and sanctification of His people. Let us, therefore, cleansed ourselves of all impurities, infidelities and immoralities so that we may able to offer our body as holy, living and acceptable sacrifice to God the Father and consequently help in the building and spreading the Church, which is the seed and the beginning of the Kingdom of God here on earth.


Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 –  Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting
Ash Wednesday & Universal Day of Fasting and Abstinence

Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the great season of Lent, when we are invited to “return sincerely to the Lord our God with fasting prayer and mourning” (Jl  2:12) and to offer to God a sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit.  It is the time of the year when we are reminded again that we are dust, and to dust we will return. On a more positive note, we are reminded “to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Today is universal day of fasting and abstinence. Catholics all over the world are encouraged to pray, to fast and abstain, and to share to the poor and the needy. Simply put, to do penance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (Cf. Tob 12:8; Mt 6:1-18), which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others (CCC 1434).

What is penance? What does it mean to do penance? “Penance is concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s grace to lose his/her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; it is a continual effort to rise from the thing of here below to things above, where Christ is. Penance is ,therefore, a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds to the Christian whole life” (JP, PR).

Penance such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving prepare us for the liturgical feast; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart (Cf. CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO. Can. 882)

How do we make our penance fruitful and meaningful?

  • Let us do our penance out of personal conviction and in freedom. Let us guard ourselves of legal formalism and superficiality which the prophets had already denounced, pride and ostentations if one fasts “in order to be seen by men. It must be done in secret, with sincerity and voluntarily.
  • Let us fast, pray and share to the needy as our penance out of our love for God and neighbor. This is the greatest commandment. This is the summary of the all the laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.
  • “This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread to the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own” (Is 58:6-8).
  • Penance finds its fulfillment, meaning and relevance only in the context of “Jesus call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes”, fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance (Cf. 2:12-13; Is. 1:16-17; Mt. 6;1-6; 16-18).

Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4).

Fasting, prayers and almsgiving are interconnected and complimentary. Fasting is the soul of prayer. Mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So when you pray, fast; when you fast, show mercy.

Starting this Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of lent, strive to be humble and “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts not your garments, and return to the Lord  your God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13).

“Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool” (Is. 1:18)


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