Sunday, March 15, 2009  If we can keep that First Commandment, we can keep all the Commandments.

Homily, Third Sunday of Lent

March 15, 2009

Fr. Ed Oen

Two weeks ago, we read about Noah. God commanded him to make an ark to save his family, and the animals so that God might make a new start. After the great flood, God made a covenant to never again drown out  people and creatures again.

Last Sunday, the second Sunday of Lent, we read about God making a covenant with Abraham. God tested Abraham. Abraham lived in Ur, in an area that is presently southeastern Iraq. God told Abraham to leave his people and to go to the Promised Land. God told Abraham if he would do this, he would give him prodigy, all types of possessions. People at that time did not know about heaven. When Abraham followed God’s command to sacrifice his son at Moriah, an angle intervened and stopped him. At the point, Abraham understood God’s love. After God intervenes, he reaffirms his promises to Abraham with a powerful oath and declaration that “because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

On this third Sunday of Lent, we read how 700 years later, God makes a covenant with His chosen people as he has Moses lead the people out into the desert. God then appears to Moses and gives him the Ten Commandment. God asked Moses to give the Commandments to the people. Once again, God told Moses that he would be his God if he would keep the Commandments. The Hebrew people were grateful to God.

Today, some people view the Commandments as too stern. But the Israelites knew what God wanted; the other people were guessing. God revealed Himself to Moses and the people knew what God was expecting of the Hebrew people.

The most important Commandment is the first Commandment: “I am the Lord your God; you shall not have other gods before me.”  If we can keep that First Commandment, we can keep all the Commandments. St. Augustine, in 400 AD, put it succinctly.  He said, “Love God – and then do as you please.”  He understood that first Commandment.

So often, we don’t put God first. God may be way down on our list. We may have our work, our families, recreation, sports – all of these things seem to be pushing God away.

The Readings today touch on Jesus as the New Covenant. He took the bread and He said, “This is my body.”  He took the cup and He said, “This is my blood.” Jesus is the New Covenant.

In the Readings today, we learn that Jesus cleansed the temple. There was a part of the temple filled with Gentiles, animals and moneychangers. They weren’t supposed to be on the inside of the temple.  Jesus ordered them out of the temple to not use the house of prayer as a marketplace. The front part of the temple was for the men; the middle was for the women and those people who were not Jewish had the back part. What Jesus was trying to say is that worship of God is for all people. When we read the Book of Mark, we see that the first people to come visit the baby Jesus are the Magi; they were people from far away.  The very first people to visit Jesus were poor shepherds.

In the Old Testament, the people were trying to get to God by offering animals.  Jesus put an end to that. Jesus is the one who gave His life for us. Instead of going to God, Jesus was the one who came to the people. God no longer has to have animal worship; Jesus Himself is the sacrifice. Jesus Himself comes to us time and time again.

During this season of Lent, we are asked to cleanse ourselves. When Jesus cleansed the temple, Jesus also teaches us to cleanse our own temple. Be reading to renew the covenant with Jesus on Easter Sunday. Each year, we renew our baptismal covenant. We renew our promises. We have the opportunity this evening to participate in the Penance Service. We look at the Ten Commandments and realize that we are to love God completely and to love our neighbor as ourself. Jesus changes things around. Love is the thing that we are expected to do. 

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