Third Sunday in Lent – Sister Camilla Burns, SNDdeN
March 7, 2021
In today’s Gospel, we are moving from the wedding feast at Cana to a riot in the temple. In the Synoptic Gospels, the overturning of the tables in the temple is one of the last things Jesus does before his passion. John’s Gospel presents it as one of the first acts of Jesus and adds the descriptive note of the whip. John uses it to demonstrate the confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish authorities. (“The Jews” is often used to pass judgments of anti-Semitism in the Gospel of John. It is important to note that the problem was not with all Jews but the Jewish authorities. After all, Jesus was also a Jew.)
Jesus signed his death warrant when he cast commerce out of the temple. In the face of the Jewish authorities, Jesus stood up for the truth about the sacred space of God’s presence and the poor, as the business people of the temple were also exploiting the poor with high prices.
What requires us to overturn tables today? Where have we supported the commercialization of our sacred space which disadvantages the poor? Perhaps we can look no farther than our common home, the earth. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urges us to overturn the tables of environmental destruction in order to restore health to our common home, our temple, our earth. The locus of divine presence is not in a building or structure but as far back as the early Christian Fathers, earth is a manifestation of God. The early Church Fathers subscribed to a “two book” theory, which affirms that God’s self-revelation is given to us in the two books of Scripture and Creation and that Christians need to “read” Scripture and Creation together in order to understand the fullness of God’s Word and truth for us today.
Earth is a living creation and like all life, it is susceptible to toxins, abuse and death. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis challenges us to overturn the tables that are destructive to earth which disproportionately harms the poor. Caring for our common home is integral to Christian life. “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue: it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”
On a note closer to home, a group of SND’s in Scotland gather with a concern for our common home. Part of their participation involves writing letters to themselves from Gaia, the personification of earth in Greek mythology. They then share these letters with each other. I end with an excerpt from Gaia’s letter to Sr. Julia McLaughlin who died in the past year. You need “to be awake so that you can speak out when our world is in danger of destruction. Remember that what you do on your own is valuable and that what you do with others is even more so. Ex parvo magnum – out of little comes great.”
John 2: 13 – 25
Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.” Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, “What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary; are you going to raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.
During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.
The Gospel of the Lord
Meet Sister Camilla Burns, SNDdeN