Third Sunday of Lent – Year B

04 March 2024

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Third Sunday of Lent – Year B


[Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25]

This past week, a lot of media and public attention focused upon the provincial budget. Many people were keenly interested in how our government authorities plan to spend money, save funds, give grants, offer tax credits or increases, and so on. These are decisions that will have an impact on the lives all citizens, to one degree or another.

It is not only the government that puts together budgets. We all do – individually, in families, and, yes, also in the parish. We commonly think of this practice in monetary terms. We have only so many dollars to spend, and budgets help ensure we do so prudently.

The season of Lent presents us with a different budgetary question: how do we spend not our money but our time? Specifically, are we spending our time as the Lord would have us do? This is a vitally important question. Time is the space within which we ponder and take the decisions that determine the shape and direction of our life’s trajectory. Do those decisions accord with the Lord’s direction for us?

These are the important questions that arise as we visit again today God’s gift of the Ten Commandments. They spell out how God wishes us to spend the time He gives us on earth, so that we can be with him forever in that timeless space we call heaven. And just as we establish priorities in shaping our financial budgets so that funds are not wasted, the Ten Commandments set out the priorities God establishes for our expenditure of time so that it is not needlessly squandered.

Those priorities are two: love of God and love of neighbour. Before all other considerations, time is to be spent loving God by adoring only Him, holding His name in honour, and keeping holy the Sabbath day of worship. We are to spend time in the love of neighbour by honouring our parents, upholding the dignity of life, respecting the sanctity of marriage, exercising justice toward all, living always in the truth, and maintaining purity of intention in relationships. Receiving anew the gift of the Commandments in this Lenten season gives us pause to examine what priorities we are actually following in our expenditure of time, and ask if they accord with God’s priorities.

For example, do I spend time adoring not God but such false idols as reputation, image, or possessions? On Sunday, does my expenditure of time ever exclude the worship of God in Holy Mass? With respect to love of neighbour, do I establish as a higher priority the love of self, by such things as: not spending time with family; pursuing relationships that are neither holy nor healthy; keeping for myself what I could give to someone in need; spreading falsehoods and gossip; or entertaining desires disrespectful of the dignity of others?

These are questions of great seriousness. When Jesus entered the Temple, he drove away the moneychangers and merchants, because, in God’s very dwelling, their time was being spent following their own priorities, not those of God; they were using both their time and money not for the worship of God and care of neighbour but the pursuit of self-interest. Well, because we are baptized, we are now, each us, temples of the Holy Spirit, places in which God mysteriously dwells. Yet, from within us there can arise desires and intentions to spend our time in ways that do not accord with the loving plan of God for each us. These, too, Jesus wants to “drive out of the temple”. The difference now is that he does so with not a harsh whip of cords but the compassionate touch of mercy, which reaches us in the sacramental celebrations of the Church, particularly in response to our confession of sins in the sacrament of Penance.

When the provincial financial budget came down this week, not everyone was pleased with it. Priorities were challenged and different areas of emphasis were proposed. As we choose to allow God to establish priorities for our expenditure of time, we shall find many people challenging us, questioning why we live as we do. This is unsurprising, given that we live in a culture that by and large no longer accepts the Gospel, and for which the Cross of Christ is, as St. Paul puts it, incomprehensible foolishness. Yet, as St. Paul goes on to say, the very Christ who was crucified is both the wisdom and the power of God. True wisdom lies in allowing the Lord Jesus to set the priorities for our lives, to determine how we are to expend our time if we are to be his followers. This he has done by summing up the commandments of God in the single injunction to love both God and neighbour.

Lent is an occasion to confront honestly how we may be squandering our God-given time in ways contrary to the priorities God establishes for its expenditure. Yet it is also a holy season in which we can bring our mis-use of time to the mercy of God for cleansing and renewal. Let us do so now in this Eucharist, asking the Lord to help us keep our spending of time within the budgetary priorities He has set down for us.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Nativity of Mary Croatian Parish

March 2-3, 2024