March 4, 2018

Third Sunday of Lent


Jesus continually told his listeners he came to fulfill the Law and not abolish it. In our readings, Jesus explains how. Yahweh spoke the Ten Commandments directly to Moses so that the Chosen People could have balance and order for their lives. Living the commandments became the proper way for each Israelite to show gratitude to God for his guidance and protection.

Then Jesus expanded these laws, adding his Father’s love and mercy. He does this through his preaching, especially his Sermon on the Mount. But more powerfully by his death on the cross. As Paul explains, this crucified God, Jesus Christ, shows the new standard for what serving others really means. Jesus turned what seemed like weakness into power, strength and wisdom.

From his cross, Jesus shows what doing for others means. God, through his incarnate son, sets forth the new norm for his new covenant.

God keeps his part of the covenant when he delivers his chosen people for a third time from yet another catastrophe. God has already delivered them from their bondage by the Egyptians. Later, God released them from the chains of their long exile in Persia. Now, from the cross, Jesus provides the greatest act of love and freedom: Jesus, the Messiah, frees his chosen ones from sin and the clutches of death. Jesus’ act of self-giving brings the comforting gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus at the Temple shows he is the spirit-filled Messiah bringing a new approach to worship. He purifies this Temple, explaining that worship is not tied to a place but is a relationship with God joined with other believers.

Jesus knew that in times of tragedy and loss we would need a strong faith.

On Oct. 2, 2017, newspaper columnist Michael Gerson wrote in The Washington Post about how we need to pray following the mass shooting in Las Vegas. His words are a beautiful reflection on Jesus’ great act of love:

“The Christian faith involves a whisper from beyond time that death, while horrible, is not final — that the affirmations of the creeds and the inscriptions on tombstones are not lies. And for many, this hope is a barrier against despair.”

From the cross, Jesus is the hope that no one will perish and all will gain strength!

Homily Helps for the February issue were written by FATHER RICHARD R. DE LILLIO, OSFS, D. Min., an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, who is a recently retired associate professor of homiletics at The Catholic University of America.