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Homily for March 7, 2021 – The 3rd Sunday of Lent

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO

March 7, 2021 – The 3rd Sunday of Lent

Exodus 20:1-17, 1 Corinthians 1: 22-25, John 2:13-25

God identified Himself as the One who heard the cry of the poor and brought his people out of the land of slavery. He who heard their cry pleads with them to pay attention to his life-giving Word. It would be good to ponder these words taken from the Book of Revelation. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (Rev. 3:22). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son” (Heb. 1: 1-2). After the Son was glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father, God continues to speak in the depths of our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The Covid-19 pandemic has been impacting every aspect of our life. It has caused the deaths of many, it has caused us to doubt the effectiveness of our economic, social, and health systems, and it has even shaken our faith in God. Those who refuse to listen to the voice of the Spirit tend to lose their commitment to protecting human rights and dignity, in particular, the right to life.

The author of the Book of Proverbs wrote: “My son follow my advice and treasure my words within you. Obey my commandments, and you will live. Let my instructions be your greatest treasure. Bind them on your fingers. Write them on the tablet of your heart” (Pro. 7:1-3). God who inscribed his law upon the tablets of our heart has inscribed our names on the palms of his hands. Saint Paul took up this theme in his second letter to the Corinthians. “You are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This letter is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on tablets that are hearts of flesh” (2 Cor. 3:3). Lent is the acceptable time for us to ponder the things God has written on our hearts. Sister Joan Chittister, in her book, “The Ten Commandments: Laws of the Heart,” (Orbis, 2006, 11-12) wrote: “The Ten Commandments are an adventure in human growth. We are not so much convicted by them as we are to be transformed by them. . .All the Sinai Tablets on the walls of all the courtrooms in the land will not assure us of justice in the courts if we do not have hearts already shaped by what the sculptures signify.” As we continue to practice the disciplines of Lent, may our hearts be humbled and softened to receive the inscribed Word, which can save our lives.

God has shared his wisdom with us by the outpouring of the Spirit. It is our privilege to have the mind of Christ revealed to us by the Spirit. Christ crucified and risen from the dead is the foundation of our hope and the fountain of our joys. Because he lives, we live. Those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit, and see God’s wisdom and power in Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Our faith teaches us to look beyond ourselves and our immediate needs to the needs of others. By conforming ourselves to the person of Christ who became poor that we might be made rich, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity and the preservation of the innate dignity of every man, woman, and child. Lent is the acceptable time for us to develop a renewed sense of solidarity grounded in justice and the attainment of reconciliation within the human family. The mystery of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection inspires us to proceed in hope. Times of trials and testing, when endured with faith in Christ, contain the light of the resurrection, the new life of a world reborn, the Passover of all those who follow his steps. “God desires communion… The Almighty created us so that we can enter into a deep and meaningful relationship with our Creator and with one another. Only through this mutual and open sharing of ourselves, we find true contentment and peace” (Archbishop Jurkovič). Saint Cyril of Jerusalem offered this insight: “Even if they have perfectly fasted, taken part in the vigil, sung the psalms, performed every ascetic deed and practiced virtue, but grace has not worked the mystical operation of the Spirit on the altar of their hearts, that whole ascetic process is incomplete and almost vain because they are not filled with the joy of the Spirit mystically working in their hearts” (St Cyril of Jerusalem). During this sacred season may each of us experience the drenching rain of the Spirit so that we might see sin for what it is and accept Christ for the savior of mankind that He is. Lent is the acceptable time to open ourselves up to the immense sea of God as love to become instruments with which Christ can draw all the members of the human family into communion with the Trinity. “The love of Christ summons us to set aside every kind of self-centeredness or competition; it impels us to universal communion and challenges us to form a community of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another” (Pope Francis, in Bagdad cathedral).