Notice how the world has upheld the notion of love as triumphant defiance. From the classic Romeo and Juliet, to the recent Twilight series, people are enthralled by tales of lovers defying directives, dispositions, decorum, death, and destiny.
Today’s First Reading, however, upends that notion of love. The Exodus lists the Decalogue as a code for loving God and of care for neighbor. It contains the core of God’s covenant with Moses on Mount Sinai. Faithful obedience and observance of the commandments is the response God asks of Israel, as he took the initiative to “lead them out of slavery in Egypt” (Ex 20:2). God presenting the Decalogue proves that love knows laws. Laws were then considered as a mark of wisdom formed through reflection of life. The deepest social values were translated into laws. As the “law of the Lord is perfect” (Ps 19:8), God’s commandments have life-enhancing attributes— they lead people to live good, holy, and deeply spiritual lives. God’s laws then should not be taken simply as a set of rigid precepts, but rather as a guide to human nature. The Gospel Love and Laws notes that Jesus understands human nature so well (cf. Jn 2:25). Love respects laws.
In the Second Reading, Paul proclaims the crucified Christ to the believers of Corinth. Seen merely with human eyes, the cross is a symbol of scandal and foolishness. Faith, however, recognizes the power of God at work in the cross. Christ as “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:2) is the fulfillment of the law. And in following Christ, people live by God’s law and the covenant relationship. Love fulfills laws. Along with keeping the commandments, fidelity to God is also expressed in worship of God.
All four Gospels report the incident of Jesus making a protest at the temple, overturning tables of money-changers and upsetting stalls of animals on sale for sacrifice. In the Synoptic Gospels the cleansing of the temple happens after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. In John’s account, the incident takes place at the start of Jesus’ ministry. It may be that Jesus has set boundaries to keep the sanctity of the temple from the impure intentions and actions that accompany worship. Still, it is equally possible that a person can keep laws faithfully without love. Laws can be enslaving and tend to betray its liberating spirit when fueled by the wrong reasons. Zeal for God’s house should consume us (cf. Jn 2:17).
It is in loving Jesus as a person that one truly encounters God. If one truly loves God, then the person should be faithful to his commandments. It is in love that laws become most meaningful. The zealous love of God en-fleshed in Jesus totally consumes his Son. This is the ultimate sacrifice of love. What better way to respond to this love than to express our fidelity to Christ, by our obedience and observance of God’s laws with consummate love towards others!
Author: Nicolo Paolo O. Asprer
Adapted from Sambuhay Online (published with permission)
More Lenten Reflections
Gospel Readings Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle B
First Reading [Ex 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17]
A reading from the Book of Exodus
IN THOSE DAYS, God delivered all these commandments: “I, the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished the one who takes his name in vain. “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. “You shall not kill. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.”
Second Reading (1 Cor 1:22-25)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
BROTHERS AND SISTERS: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Gospel (Jn 2:13-25)
P — A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
SINCE THE PASSOVER of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.