Sunday, March 7 at St. Francis Xavier Parish
In preparation for the celebration of Mass on the 3rd Sunday of Lent, I invite you to reflect on the Gospel reading that will be our focus this Sunday.
“We find it easy to admire – even if we do not imitate – the compassionate Jesus, but an angry Jesus armed with a corded whip, driving traders and money changers out of the Jerusalem temple and upturning their tables, may shock us. This gospel does not actually use the word “angry,” but Jesus’s actions are played out against the backdrop of the “zeal” of Psalm 69:10, and the burning passion of the psalmist for God and the house of God, the Temple, that Mark places in the mouth of Jesus. This is the zeal that will consume Jesus in the hot noon of Calvary.
The cause of Jesus’s anger is not so much the money exchange or animal trading in the outer court of the temple. Foreign coinage that bore pagan or imperial images could not be accepted for the half-shekel tax for the upkeep of the temple sanctuary, and so it had to be exchanged for acceptable temple currency with which to pay this tax and also buy sacrificial animals. John writes that “the Passover of the Jews was near,” and so those flocking to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast from all over the Roman Empire needed to buy the animals required for participation in the temple worship and the domestic rituals. They could do this most conveniently at the temple. Jesus is not unaware of the need for the money exchange, nor so naïve as not to know that petty pilfering and profiteering can be involved in these transactions. Something much more radical is happening: the reclamation of the holy place from marketplace to his Father’s house; from empty, atrophied ritual to living worship.
By his “parable in action,” Jesus momentarily terminates the temple worship, reclaims it from chaos and commerce, and cleanses the privileged piece of creation that is his Father’s house of prayer. No doubt a few hours later the tables were again in place, animals led back in, coins exchanged – with plenty to talk about!
Yet the disturbing Jesus does not disappear from the scene; he has more “table turning” to do. He stays to answer the criticism of his opponents who can see no further than the temple built over forty-six years by human hands or who refuse to imagine or tolerate any alternatives to the religious practices and institutions that they consider faultless and unchangeable. In this Jesus stands in the line of the Hebrew prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Amos, who angrily and zealously denounced triumphalism and absolutism in worship. Jesus, too, will suffer the fate of so many prophets before and after him: rejection, persecution, even death. Jesus dares to name himself as the new and living temple in which the divine presence dwells. Ultimately, the sanctuary of his body will be destroyed in his passion and death, only to be raised again in three days. It is only after these events that his disciples will remember and understand Jesus’s words.
The contemporary church cannot consider itself beyond the reach of Jesus’s whip or overturning hands… For us who are living stones in the temple of Christ’s Body, Lent is also a time for cleansing the deep personal sanctuary of our hearts, for driving out of our lives whatever clutters our discipleship, blocks our ears to the word of God and the prophets, and distracts us from trading justly and lovingly with the gifts God has given us.” (Living Liturgy 2021)
Last night (Thursday) we celebrated the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation by Grade 7 students from Our Lady of Peace Elementary School. We wish to congratulate our young people on this occasion, as well their parents and sponsors, and the school staff who assisted them in preparation for the sacrament. We realize that the celebrations are different this year due to the ongoing pandemic but the grace of God in Confirmation is present and working within us. Some of you may be surprised, as I heard last night, but this year it is Fr. Claude and myself who administer the Sacrament as our Bishop has granted all pastors and associate pastors the faculty to administer Confirmation, as per the Diocesan instructions during the time of pandemic, and this faculty is in place until the end of June 2021.
This coming Thursday we will celebrate Confirmation with students from St. Martin of Tours School and their families. Please keep these candidates in your prayers.
Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families continues this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom, and all are welcome to attend! This week’s theme is Fasting. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the Zoom invite.
Development and Peace’s annual fundraising campaign has begun. This year it is called Share Love Share Lent and is highlighting the wide variety of ways that Development and Peace works to support our brothers and sisters in the global south who suffer injustices. Much more information can be found here. A collection will be taken up at our parish on Solidarity Sunday, which this year falls on Sunday, March 21. Please give generously if you are able.
Please remember in your prayers the soul of Anna DeSimone, a long-time faithful parishioner, who passed away this week and whose funeral is tomorrow, Saturday, at 10:00am. The funeral Mass will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel. Also please pray for her grieving family. Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Join us for the celebration of the Sunday Mass in person at the regular times. We hope that more of you can start to join us in person again as you feel comfortable. For those who are not able to do so at this time we continue to livestream the 9am morning Mass on Sunday.