Third Sunday of Lent (B)
March 03, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.





O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,
who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving
have shown us a remedy for sin,
look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,
that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,
may always be lifted up by your mercy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading (Ex 20:1-3,7-8,12-17) 

God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me. 7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 You shall not murder. 14 You shall not commit adultery. 15 You shall not steal. 16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. 17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Responsorial Psalm (19:8,9,10,11)

R/. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Second Reading (1 Cor 1:22-25)

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Verse Before The Gospel (Jn 3:16)


Gospel (Jn 2:13-25)

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The people then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 They then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. 23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Catena Nova

Christ is zealous for God’s house in each one of us. He does not want the house of prayer to be a place for money-changers or to become a den of thieves, as He is the Son of a jealous God… These words make it clear that God does not want anything foreign to mix with His will in the soul of any one of us, especially the souls of those who desire to accept the teachings of the divine faith (Origen of Alexandria).

God does not want His temple to be a market, but a house of holiness....He taught that the Church should not make a place for worldly commerce, and so He expelled the money-changers in particular, those who seek profit from God’s money and are unable to distinguish between good and evil (St. Ambrose of Milan).

To pray in God’s temple we must pray in the peace of the Church, in the unity of the body of Christ, which is made up of many believers throughout the world. All who believe in this way are like the living stones which go to build God’s temple, and like the rot-proof timber used in the framework of the ark which the flood waters could not submerge. It is in this temple, that is, in ourselves, that prayer is addressed to God and heard by him....The temple of God, this body of Christ, this assembly of believers, has but one voice, and sings the psalms as though it were but one person. If we wish, it is our voice; if we wish, we may listen to the singer with our ears and ourselves sing in our hearts. But if we choose not to do so it will mean that we are like buyers and sellers, preoccupied with our own interests (St. Augustine of Hippo). 
The soul, the conscience of the faithful, is also the temple and house of God. Should this soul bring forth wicked thoughts, towards the injuring of our neighbor, these will settle there like robbers in a cave, slaying one by one those who pass by, thrusting the swords of their malice into those who are without fault. The faithful soul is now no longer a house of prayer, but a den of thieves; scorning the innocence and simplicity of holiness, it tries to injure its neighbor. But since we are instructed without ceasing against all such perversities of conduct by the words of the Redeemer throughout the sacred pages, even now Christ is doing what we are told he then did: "And he was teaching daily in the temple." For Truth teaches daily in the temple when it carefully instructs the mind of the faithful.  (Pope St. Gregory the Great)
When the gospel texts are read straight through with a view to discovering the attitude of Jesus towards the Temple and all it represented, two apparently contradictory features become immediately apparent: Jesus’ immense respect for the Temple; his very lively criticism of abuses and of formalism, yet above and beyond this, his constantly repeated assertion that the Temple is to be transcended, that it has had its day, and that it is doomed to disappear (Yves Congar).
The temple is the place where the gracious presence of God condescends to dwell among men, and also the place where God receives his people. Both aspects of the temple are fulfilled only in the Incarnation. Here is the real presence of God in bodily form, as well as the new humanity, for Christ has taken that humanity upon himself in his own body. From this it follows that the Body of Christ is the place of acceptance, the place of atonement and peace between God and humanity. God finds humans in the Body of Christ, and humans find themselves accepted by God in that same body. The Body of Christ is the spiritual temple built out of living stones (I Pet. 2.5). Christ is its sole foundation and cornerstone ( Eph. 2.20; I Cor. 3.11) but at the same time he is in his Person the temple (Eph. 2.21), in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, replenishing and sanctifying the hearts of the faithful (I Cor. 3.16; 6.19). The temple of God is the holy people in Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

In order to understand todays Gospel passage, we need to stress an important detail. The merchants were in the courtyard of the pagans, the place accessible to non-Jews. This very courtyard had been turned into a market. But God wants his temple to be a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56,7). Hence Jesus' decision to overturn the tables of the money changers and drive out the animals. This purification of the sanctuary was necessary for Israel to rediscover its vocation: to be light for all people, a small nation chosen to serve the salvation that God wants to give to everyone. (Pope Francis)


     There can be little doubt the religious demonstration Jesus performed in the temple set the stage for his death.  And while the Synoptic gospels all place the event in Holy Week, John places it at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry.  I suspect John has it right as the antagonism between the prophet from Nazareth and the Jerusalem establishment no doubt built over time.  In doing so, John suggests this protest was programmatic for Jesus’ mission and not simply what caught the temple authorities’ eye a few days before leading to the execution of a dangerous troublemaker.

     In any case, apart from the economic loss overturning the sacrificial system at the heart of temple worship would bring about, Jesus was also attacking the priestly authorities who profited from it.  (You might think of someone entering St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican one morning to prevent priests from saying Mass at its many altars for which they had been paid a stipend from the faithful who requested the intention.).  Beyond that, the Sadducees also sought to stay on Rome's good side, offering a daily sacrifice for the emperor Tiberius, while the Roman governor Pontius Pilate  was known to help himself to money form the temple treasury —a cut, so to speak, from the sale of animals.  

     Whatever Jesus' precise motive might have been, this was, at the very least, a protest against religious formalism with its reliance on external practices in favor of the heart of religion, worship he would call “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24) and that has no need of a temple to house it.  Indeed, by relocating “religion” to the temple of his body, the “outer garments” religion wears were relativized.  One might even call it a “religionless” religion insofar as the external forms are secondary to the substance. (Cf. Kenneth A. Mathews, "John, Jesus ad the Essenes," Criswell Theological Review, 1988: 101-126 @.  

     And let’s be honest.  So much of what surrounds Christianity is just such a “garment,” one that can often obscure what it adorns, a garment that may well have gone out of style, a period piece that is best admired in a museum but is ill-fitting today.  Worse, when these “institutional” aspects of Christianity are mistaken as ends rather than means, when window dressing is taken for the essentials, then we can't be surprised when people react with incomprehension and even ridicule.  So there's nothing wrong with updating your wardrobe, discarding worn out items, trying on a new style, admitting some things just don't fit any more.

     And either we do these things, or the message will appeal only to antiquarians and nostalgists who seem not to notice the temple is no longer standing.   I think here of Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a victim of Nazi persecution, who wrote from prison

what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience – and that means the time of religion in general.... How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity – and even this garment has looked very different at times – then what is a religionless Christianity? (Letters and Papers from Prison).

     Of course, he was speaking largely of the secularized West.  Catholics, for example, are no longer the largest religious group in the United States at 20% while the "nones" with no religious affiliation have moved into first place at 28% (cf. Pew Research Center;  Still, religion is alive and well in many parts of the world, especially in Muslim countries and in the Southern Hemisphere -- Africa in particular.  Mass attendance in Nigeria, for instance, is 94% despite the high number of violent attacks on Christians in recent years.  No, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “Rumors of religion’s demise are greatly exaggerated.”

     So it 's true, some of us still find the "garments" of religion fitting, however foolish we might look to those wearing a different couture, and no matter how attractive we might try to make it — careful, of course, not to invite the mockery of those whose keen eye notices when the emperor has no clothes — God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and that will always make our garments seem like they came from the clearance rack, no matter how many signs and how much wisdom we might have on for we proclaim Christ crucified, the power and the wisdom of God. (cf. II).  Who lives and reigns, forever and ever.  Amen. 

Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For the Church: that we may grow in our awareness of our dignity as temples of the Holy Spirit.

For all who teach and preach: that they may faithfully proclaim Christ crucified and lead others into the mystery of God’s love.

For the grace of renewal: that God’s covenant with us will move our hearts to a deeper relationship with God and greater service to our neighbors.

For a deeper appreciation of the commandments: that we may allow the wisdom and vision of the commandments given to Moses to form our conscience and guide our decisions.

For a spirit of integrity: that we recognize ourselves as servants of God, honoring God’s name by our words and deeds, and never attempting to use God for our benefit.

For a cleansing of the temple of our hearts: that God will free us from all that enslaves us and help us to offer our self-sacrificing service to God and others.

For an end to injustice: that God will rouse our hearts to identify racial injustice in our lives, give us the strength to make changes, and guide us in cleansing the practices and systems that sustain it.

For an end to violence: that God will heal the brokenness in our society that devalues human life and inspire leaders to work toward protecting the innocent and vulnerable from harm.

For members of legislatures: that God will guide their deliberations and help them address the issues that burden the poor and marginalized of society.

Holy God, the folly of the cross  mocks our human wisdom, and the weakness of the crucified puts worldly power to shame. Banish from our hearts every pretense of might and of knowledge, that by the power flowing from Christ’s resurrection your people may be raised up from the death of sin and fashioned into a living temple of your glory. Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offertory Antiphon

Offertory Hymn (Marty Haugen)


Return to God with all your heart, the source of grace and mercy;
Come seek the tender faithfulness of God.

Now the time of grace has come, the day of salvation;
Come and learn now the way of our God.

I will take your heart of stone and place a heart within you,
A heart of compassion and love.

If you break the chains of oppression,
If you set the pris’ner free;
If you share your bread with the hungry,
Give protection to the lost;
Give shelter to the homeless,
Clothe the naked in your midst,
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.

Communion Antiphon


Closing Hymn (American Folk Hymn)

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this, O my soul.
What wondrous love is this
that caused the Lord of bliss to send this precious peace to my soul, to my soul,
to send this precious peace to my soul.
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing; 
To God and to the Lamb, 
Who is the great I AM, 
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free 
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.