Look for God in the Margins: a Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent, 2024

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Look for God in the Margins: a Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent, 2024

by Sister Mary Josephine Torborg

Exodus 20:1-1
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11
1 Corinthians 1:22-257
John 2:13-25

“When I prove my holiness among you, I will gather you from all the nations and I will pour clean water upon you and cleanse you from all your iniquities and I will give you a new Spirit, says the Lord.”

This entrance antiphon from the book of Ezechiel reminds us that God promises to restore Israel with a new heart to follow him, and to put a new Spirit within them to transform and empower them to carry out His will.  During our Lenten Journey we too are encouraged to seek a new heart of flesh and a new Spirit to carry out God’s will for us.

Last Sunday in our Eucharistic liturgy, we had the beautiful reading from the Gospel of Mark where Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain and was transfigured before them.  From this mountain top, Jesus can look back to the Jordan valley, the scene of his baptism and his prophetic call. He can see Gallilee where he spent so much time in ministry and performing miracles.  He can look beyond and see Jerusalem.  Jesus knows what awaits him in Jerusalem.  Encouraged by the Spirit, Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem.

The Gospel reading for this Third Sunday of Lent is from the Gospel of John.  Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem and is preparing to celebrate the Passover.  When he comes to the temple, which was to serve as the center of worship and praise to God in Jerusalem, he discovers that the temple has become a marketplace.  Jesus sees that the buying and selling of the animals for sacrifice has become a money-making opportunity for the merchants.  (Not unlike the drug trafficking of our day, where the drug barons receive the riches from the buying and selling done by the little people in the street.)  The temple was so crowded that the foreigners complained they found it difficult to worship, which was their purpose in coming to the temple. The temple tax had to be paid in local currency, so the money changers had to be there to help the foreigners.  But they often exploited the foreigners in this process. Jesus was consumed with righteous anger against such flagrant disrespect for God and for the temple.

Fr. Demetrius Dumm notes in his book, the Mystical Portrait of Jesus, “One can imagine that Jesus used the whip of cords to take swipes even at the pillars of the temple, for it had become symbolic of a religion that became too rigid and stagnant that it was unable to welcome the God of Change and progress.”  Jesus brought a new focus to ritual cleansing, that of moral cleansing, which the Jewish leaders did not understand.

The Jews asked Jesus for a Sign that gave him the authority to do these things.  Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The leaders simply could not understand what Jesus meant.  However, many other people began to believe in Jesus when they saw the signs.

Lent is a gift when it is lived well.  Deep within the human heart is this fascination with the Mystery of the Holy.  We learn to respond to the Spirit at work in our lives when our hearts are touched.  Bishop Robert Morneau writes of these grace-filled moments:

It is there that God works,
The back side of the tapestry,
The underside of life:
In dark alleys of fear and doubt
On the margins of poverty and pain,
At the muddled crossroads of heartache
Don’t look for the Deity elsewhere,
At galas or balls or luxurious banquets.
The Divine dwells only at one address:
Love’s Lane.

Where is God at work in your tapestry of life?


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“Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”
–Henri Nouwen