“I am a fool for Christ.” St. Paul said that, and if our friends don’t think we are a bit foolish—even somewhat “fanatical” about our faith—we should ask ourselves whether we are proclaiming Jesus with any perceptible degree of conviction. “We proclaim Christ crucified” St. Paul writes, which is “foolishness to gentiles.” To a culture driven by power and success, only a fool would worship a crucified man. We shouldn’t be surprised if our faith does not seem reasonable to our non-believer friends, but we hope that over time the evident fullness of our love will speak a deeper truth to them.
There is a God
The third Sunday of Lent begins with the Ten Commandments, which seem reasonable enough. How can any society function without rules against lying, stealing, and killing? But the reason why governments will not allow the Ten Commandments in public places is the first commandment: “I am God. You shall have no other gods besides me.” Mankind is hopelessly polytheistic—we continually invent and serve other gods. Money, for example, is the god most Americans serve most of the time. If it’s a question of God or money, money usually wins. A central theme of Pope Francis’ pontificate is that God and God’s people are more important than money. There is one God, and he is a jealous God. That means he demands all of us—not 10%, but 100%. It’s all His. It all came from Him, and it’s all going back to Him. Happiness is simply living in accord with this fact. A friend of mine has worked in Russia for 20 years, and he often says if people really want a society without God, come to post-Soviet Russia. For 70 years Russia imposed Marxism, which defines economics not God as the supreme reality. In Russia today, almost everyone lies, and cheats, and steals, beginning with the government, because if there is no God, and no law higher than blind economic forces, stealing is not wrong. Today the Russian economy, and society in general, is in a shambles.
The Church’s One Mission
The Church’s one mission, her only mission, is to proclaim that God exists. Most of us struggle to put enough faith in God to trust Him with our money and other personal choices, but a growing number of American’s openly mock belief in God. And so the Church’s mission is urgent. Who else will witness to God’s laws, on which society depends, if the Church fails?
Our dear Archbishop is mocked for simply carrying out this vital mission, and that is why I support him, now more than ever. Next Sunday we will pledge our support in the annual Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, a gift we make once a year to fund the work of the Archbishop and the Archdiocese. I can think of few better investments of my money at this time. Our goal is $38,000, and last week I committed myself to the 1% club—to personally give 1% of that goal, or $380. Last week a woman gave me a thousand dollar check for the AAA. If she can give a thousand, I figured I can give $760 so I’ve become a charter member of the “2% club.” What will you give next week to support the Church’s mission of proclaiming God’s truth? Prepare yourselves, next week, to render a sacrificial gift to this archdiocese, which brings God’s truth to the people of our city.
We Are That Temple
In our magnificent gospel today Jesus cleanses the temple. “Money-changers” were charging unjust fees to exchange the Roman and Greek coins into Jewish shekels (“usury,” which was condemned by Jewish law). They were effectively blaspheming God in his own house. Jesus shouts at them to get out, chasing them with a whip. The world often describes Jesus as tolerant, welcoming, inclusive, and non-judgmental, which he is. But what do we make of this scene? Truly, Jesus welcomes all into His Church, but not all behavior is welcome. It is God’s house, not ours, and he sets the rules. You set rules for your own household, and God must set rules for his.
Finally, dear brethren, we are that temple. Each of us needs Jesus to purify us, and only he can do it. We need him, yes, even to shout at us, because we are so dense; we need him to humiliate us, because we are so proud; we need him to scourge us, because we are so obstinate. The voluntary penances we take on in Lent, and the involuntary penances we accept throughout the year—an illness, the loss of a job, a failing human relationship—this is how Christ purifies our temples. We need to support his Church, because it is our only and last hope in a culture that is falling over the edge. Next week you can help Jesus purify this temple with your financial gift, and every week you must help Jesus purify this temple with your prayers and penances. Let us ask Our Lady, Star of the Sea, to guide us in the difficult task of building up and cleansing the House of God.