3rd Sunday of Lent the Cleansing of the Temple
7th March 2021
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
Homilist – Fr. Paul Bennett
You know that some event has made a deep impression when people many years after can still vividly recall it. Well today’s Gospel is one of those occasions as it is one of the very few events in Jesus’ life that is recorded by all four Evangelists.
Jesus was aware of the huge religious and political significance of the temple in Jerusalem, and yet he challenged those who not only turned it into a market place, but also those who allowed it, as he shouts at them to ‘Stop turning my Father’s house into a market’. Now we all know that there is a big difference between a house and a market. Every house has at least the potential to be a home, a market can never be that. For a market is place of commerce where services are offered and received based upon need. The temple is, however, God’s home, and a place where all people can feel at home in God’s presence. When we think of home, we recall a place of welcome, of security, where all relationships despite differences of personalities, role and opinion, are appreciated and valued and where personal responsibility for the good of all is a requirement too; a place where even the most infrequent or ungrateful of visitors, is received with respect and dignity and as the 10 commandments remind us, a place of expectation too. Hospitality has always been a central theme in the Christian way of life, and it’s a theme that Pope Francis has frequently reflected upon; its importance cannot be underestimated but maybe we need to rediscover our Churches as welcoming homes not merely places of sacramental provision. For the truth is, as we now know from bitter experience, people rarely find a sense of home in institutions but they can find it in hospitable, hope filled communities of faith.
The Church is called to reveal the powerful and life-giving presence of Christ to the world. In today’s 2nd Reading, Paul sets God’s wisdom over and against human wisdom, God’s power over and against human strength. The Church is ever ancient and ever new, and the risen Lord is constantly working to purify the church, and we need to be opened to his purifying presence. As Christians we are called to read the signs of the times to reflect on what is essential to the proclamation of the Christian faith while having the courage to let go of all that is unnecessary.
This past year our lives have been totally altered by a virus of biblical proportions. Our Churches have remained largely empty for most of the year as we have celebrated the eucharist behind closed doors, viewed only through the prism of modern media. As our Churches are consigned along with other cultural institutions such as museums, art galleries and libraries, awaiting the green light to open our doors. Our pastoral care is not seen as an essential service, and the truth is that in our parishes many would not come even if there was no pandemic to prevent them. And if anything, the virus may well have speeded up that process.
Modern means of communication have offered us the possibility to proclaim the gospel in news ways. And as welcome as this is, the Church can never become a virtual home; it has to be a real one of flesh and bone, for our faith is one of incarnation. A reminder to all of us of the importance of creating and celebrating a sense of community in our Eucharistic gatherings, and that no amount of technology can ever replace. When this pandemic eventually subsides, all of us will have to revaluate how we as Christians live, celebrate, and share the Gospel message. We not only have to build up our faith communities again, we have to find ways to build back better – engaging with and confronting a reality that has been with us for some time but that the virus had laid bare for all to see.