Getting Things Right With God

Third Sunday of Lent
Ex 20: 1-17; 1 Cor 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25
Dc. Larry Brockman

Did you notice that most of the words in the ten commandments deal with our relationship with God? We are to love and honor God, not take his name in vain, and rest on the Sabbath.

The other 7 commandments deal with the relations we have with others- a list of “thou shalt nots”. Sin seems so much easier to determine in these later commandments, doesn’t it? We know when we don’t honor our parents and elders; or when we hurt someone physically or mentally; or when we lust after someone or cheat on our spouses; or lie or covet things that don’t belong to us.

But how about our relationship with God? How do we determine when we are in a right relationship with God? When are we loving God with our hearts and minds and souls, rather than having “false gods” before him? In fact, what does a false god really mean in this day and age?

In order to appreciate what it really meant to have false gods for the Hebrews I think it’s instructive to transport ourselves back to what it must have been like in their day The Hebrew People were escaping slaves. For centuries they had been subjected to Egyptian Masters who worshipped pagan Gods. And being subject to them meant lots of things. Not only were they subservient to them, and so had to do all the menial work for them; but the Hebrew people and their customs were suppressed at the expense of these Egyptian overlords and their ways. The culture they grew up in worshipped cows and pharaoh; the value system that was in “vogue” was different.

So, many of the folks who were Hebrew slaves gave lip service to the practices of the Jewish faith at the time. They were just along for the ride- trying to escape slavery. So their faith in God was secondary, weak, maybe even non-existent. Most of them lived their lives according to norms for Egyptian society.

When Pharaoh wouldn’t let the Hebrews go, God worked incredible miracles for Israel in the plagues that wreaked havoc upon Egypt. After God sent all the plagues on Egypt, the Egyptians wanted to be spared from blood in the Nile, drought, famine, flies, locusts, and dead first borns. In fact, the Egyptians were so anxious to get rid of the Hebrews at any cost after these plagues that they even gave the Hebrews all their gold and silver when they sent the Hebrews on their way!

But then, they thought better of it, saying “What have we done”; so they chased the escaping Hebrews down, backing them up against the Red Sea. Then God worked another miracle- parting the Red Sea, and after the Hebrews had a chance to cross, God backfilled the sea on top of the Egyptian pursuers.

One would have thought that these mind boggling miracles would convince the hardest of hearts that the God of the Hebrews was the one, almighty, all powerful true God; and that they would be thankful and heed God’s will. But the sad truth is that even after all that, as Moses heads down the mountain with the commandments written on them, he finds the Hebrews having cast a golden cow as a god. Why? Because they were hungry and thirsty; and because Moses had left them alone for a time. They longed to return to Egypt where water was abundant and there were fleshpots to eat. They neither appreciated what God had done for them, nor had they put him first.

Our society is not really so different, is it? As Catholics we are a minority, imbedded as slaves to an ever growing secular culture. Many of us live in a false sense of worldly prosperity. We are neither thirsty nor hungry, and what satisfies us is what we spend most of our effort pursuing. It isn’t just food and drink either. What captures the attention of our hearts is often the things that our culture offers- Sex, Drugs, Pop Culture, Sports, Computer Fantasies, whatever. How many of us really put God first?
You know, that’s what made Jesus so angry in the Gospel. The whole temple scene disgusted him because the people were not putting God first. People were supposed to bring the right offering to the temple for sacrifice. But it was convenient to pick up a dove or oxen in the courtyard inside the temple rather than bring it with you on your journey. This convenience, according to some sources, was conveniently expensive as well. The people were being taken advantage of. And then, the money changers made it convenient to leave just the right size offering.

Yes, people were there in the temple doing what was required But they had lost sight about what it was really all about- putting God first in all that they did; and worshipping God with their hearts and minds.

We are in the middle of Lent- a time to examine our lives and make a correction. It’s time to put God first in your life. It’s time to trust in that little voice you hear in your head that tells you something needs to be changed. For as Paul says to the Corinthians, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom”.

So, ask yourself if there is anything in this world that is holding you back from God’s mission for you. Let go of it, and come to the Lord during this holy season of Lent.


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