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 carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the Earth below or in the waters beneath the Earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
"You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain."
"Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the Earth, the sea and all that is in them but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
"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 cover your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him."(P) The word of the Lord.
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord of trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. (R)
The percepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart, the command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye. (R)
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, all of them just. (R)
They are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold; sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb. (R)
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 is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.(P) The word of the Lord.
Since the Passover 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 consumes 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 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. He needed no one to give him testimony about human nature. He himself understood it well.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
The liturgical year, also known as the church year is divided into several seasons. During the year the church relives the saving events of Christ's life, death and resurrection. Hence the year consists of Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time after Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time after Pentecost. Each season is colored and coded with appropriate scriptures and prayers assigned to match the theme of the season to enhance both individual and community worship. Now we are in the season of Lent. Lent is about preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. During this time we are required to do some form of penance such as fasting, prayer and acts of charity for our sin.
Let me give a short summary of the Lenten reflection so far. We began Lent with the mark of ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday as a reminder of our own mortality, repentance and faith. On the first Sunday of Lent we read about Jesus' time in the wilderness where he fasted and prayed and was tempted by the devil. After that, he started preaching with a call to repentance and belief in the gospel. All in all we were reminded of three things: (1) Because Jesus endured the same temptations that we face, he identifies himself with our struggles and gives us the help and grace we need to resist temptation. (2) Repentance is not merely feeling sorry or remorseful for sin and its consequences or even being willing to turn from one's sin but turning to the Lord Jesus to be saved from sin. That's why Lent is a journey with Jesus. (3) Believing in the gospel means taking Jesus at his word and believing in his promises without doubting what he says is true.
Last Sunday (Second Sunday) we read how the Lord bid Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice and how the Lord found favor with him and promised to bless him in abundance. And we also read about the transformation of Jesus before his disciples and God's declaration that Jesus was his beloved Son to whom believers must listen. In all, we learned three things: (1) Like Abraham we are also tested by God to make our faith known. He allows struggles and adversities as tests to prove our faith in Him. Through these tests God is also preparing our lives for the great blessings that we could experience. (2) Like Abraham we must be willing to surrender and obey God in everything, trust in Him and His will. (3) We must listen to Jesus for He is the beloved Son of God. Yes. Obedience is a hallmark of our genuine faith and love and devotion to God. Jesus repeatedly has said that only obedient people will inherit everlasting life, peace and joy. What do we have to obey?
Jesus explicitly shows that we must first and foremost obey the Ten Commandments. For instance, when a man asked Jesus what he must do to possess eternal life Jesus said to him, "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." The man said, "Which ones?" Jesus replied, "You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false witness. Honor your father and mother. You shall love your neighbor as yourself", Matthew (19:16-19).
These are not new commandments. They had already been given to people through Moses and of which we read today from the Book of Exodus. These are the Ten Commandments:
I am the Lord your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve. That is, we are to fear, love and worship only God. We must demonstrate complete love and total loyalty to God.
You shall not have other gods before me. That is, we must not worship idols of any kind that would distract us from our devotion to God. None and nothing should take precedence over God and His commandments. We must love God with all of our heart, mind and soul.
You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. That is, we must not use the Name of God in an improper or irreverent way. We must not curse, swear, lie, or deceive in God's name but instead use it in prayer, praise and thanksgiving to Him and to call upon Him in times of trouble.
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. That is, we must keep the seventh day (The Day of the Lord) holy and a rest day for everyone - employers and employees, masters and servants. We should abstain from doing unnecessary work and any activity that may profane the holiness of God. As the day is dedicated or set apart for the worship of God we are obliged to go to temples or houses of prayer to worship God. When we read or hear the Word of God we should not despise it but instead gladly listen and learn it.
Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. That is, we should not ignore, despise, ridicule and anger our parents but instead honor, serve, obey, love and respect them to whom we own our life and who have given us the knowledge of God.
You shall not kill. That is, we should not harm or take another's life. Instead we must respect and help protect life.
You shall not commit adultery. Adultery shows a level of disrespect to the commitment between two persons. But it is not just reserved for a marriage union or spouses who are unfaithful to each other. In the gospel of Matthew Jesus expands this commandment to include lust both before and after marriage. Hence it is a call to lead a sexually pure and decent life in words and deeds, and husbands and wives must respect, love and honor each other.
You shall not steal. Stealing can take many forms including cheating someone or even delaying paying back someone what you owe him or her. So the commandment calls us not to steal other's property, earn by deception or by crooked business deals, pay unfair salaries or exploit others' weaknesses to make money. Instead we must respect and safeguard others' belongings.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. That is, we should not destroy the honor and reputation of others through lies, slander and gossip. Instead we should be honest in our relationship with others. We must defend others and think and speak well of them.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not covet your neighbor's house, nor his male or female servant nor his cattle nor anything else that belongs to him. To covet means to crave or desire especially in excessive or improper ways. It is the yearning to possess something or someone that belongs to others. It is our wanting far more than we would legitimately deserve or that would be our rightful share. This commandment tells us that we should not lure, force or trick anyone into inheriting or stealing anything or anyone that belongs to others. Instead we should be pure in thought and desire and we must help and be of service to others.
These commandments may appear to be ancient and obsolete but they are a practical standard for life for all ages. Yes. Jesus reminds us that obedience to God begins with accepting the Ten Commandments as the permanent standard of our values and for behavior. Jesus says, "Anyone who infringes on even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of Heaven; but the person who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of Heaven", Matthew (5:17-19).
We can disregard or disobey God if we choose and it may bring immediate relief to the situation, but it will cause us emotional, mental, physical and spiritual suffering and it will grieve our Lord. Lent is an opportune time to examine our hearts and actions in light of our obedience to God.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!