It has been a tumultuous week in Ireland and America. Ireland came out on top this time because we confronted and survived a battle with the beast from the east which was the weather. Here in the heart of the Wicklow mountains we were stopped in our tracks looking out the windows speechless at what was unfolding before our eyes. Nobody could do anything anymore except pray for deliverance. Good Catholics were quick to remind us that this was God’s way of punishing us for our sins and that we needed to do more penance this Lent in reparation. They are convinced that God is particularly angry with the government for giving the pubs permission to open on Good Friday this year.
On this third Sunday of Lent it is still almost impossible to walk on the main road outside the door but since it is the sabbath day of rest remaining indoors in a reflective mood is welcome. We are continuing our Lenten journey this week which comes under the heading of unconditional love. On the first Sunday of Lent we considered love as a faithful relationship while last Sunday the theme was love as self giving or sacrifice. Today we are asked to reflect on love as trust.
In the first Scripture reading today from Exodus 20: 1 – 17, the ten commandments are the focus. Too often in the past the commandments were presented in a very negative way. Do not do this but if you do, you will pay for it with eternal punishment. The commandments are not meant to be signposts pointing the way to damnation but clear directions guiding us along the way to liberation and freedom. The emphasis should be on the virtue that the commandment is trying to protect and foster. The goal is to do what is right by walking the way of self giving, trust and love.
Our model for the right way is the way of Jesus Christ. His life was a contradiction of the conventional wisdom – to the Jews it was a stumbling block and to the Greeks it was folly cf Reading 1 Cor 1: 22- 25. To those who put Jesus Christ at the centre of their lives there is power and wisdom leading to liberation and freedom.
There was some footage in last night’s TV news showing crowds of people queuing outside a supermarket anxious to get in and stock up once more with supplies after the storm. It looked like they had found redemption again after two days of separation from the material things that we have come to depend on so much. The shopping centres have become the new cathedrals and churches but who is to blame people because the churches too have lost their sense of other worldly religious values.
Today’s Gospel reading tells of Jesus having a tantrum in the temple. Read John 2 : 19 – 25 He overturned the tables of the money changers and made it clear that it was not good enough to be turning the holy place into a marketplace and a den of thieves. Imagine what he would feel about today’s version of the sabbath. There is no way he would get away with shutting down the supermarkets but there is every possibility that he would open up the churches in a new way. He would probably invite everybody in to pray, meditate,reflect and have a conversation about the values in life that no amount of money can secure.
In Glendalough this morning the old monastery was still inaccessible because deep drifts of snow are still lying in the gateway. It was possible to stand on the roadway outside and take the picture above of the round tower through the trees on the pattern bank. In the past a great fair used to be held on this bank once a year on the feast day of St. Kevin on the 3rd of June. The day usually began in a solemn way with prayers and good intentions but often deteriorated into faction fighting and chaos as the day went on, ending with men going home with sore heads from too much drink and belts of blackthorn sticks. It was another version of disrespect for the holy place and the priest had to finally step in and drive them all away for good.
We have come to the end of a chaotic week. The round tower has stood above it all for over a thousand years reminding us that faith, hope and love will endure. The quest for meaning and relationships in the generations who have gone before us was the very same as ours. The human heart is never satisfied with what we have here and now. It will continue to seek and express itself in different ways at different times. The only constant is love. Love is unconditional trust in whatever comes our way. God is love.
The response to Ps. 19 today is: “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life”
What are the idols in my life?
Do I take others on trust?