Third Sunday of Lent
March 8, 2015 – Year B
Readings: Ex 20:1-17 / 1 Cor 1:22-25 / Jn 2:13-25
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Spring is here, although not formally, not until March 20, but we already spring forward. I love those words: “Spring forward.” We don’t spring backward, we always spring forward. And this is what we do with our spiritual life. We always move forward. We learn lessons from the past, but we always, with the help of God’s grace, look forward to a better and brighter tomorrow. That is in spite of all the trials that may come our way.
At the end of the season of winter, some health enthusiasts do what they call a “cleansing diet.” Or some people call it a “detox diet.” I googled this kind of diet, which is no different than what my mom, who celebrated her one hundredth birthday last Thursday, had been doing, as well as most of the people of our island. They eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
When I was growing up, we had coconuts all over the place. They’re cheap. They’re free. All of us have coconuts. That’s every house. We were told, “They’re very high in cholesterol. Don’t eat coconuts.” We ate coconuts anyway, because they’re free. My mom has always eaten coconuts. Now they’re telling everybody, “coconut oil is good.” Even coconut meat is good. That’s after more than forty years of warning us that they’re high in cholesterol and that they will kill you. Well, nobody listened, at least in that island, simply because that’s part of the staple foods: rice and coconut, and of course lots of fruit. And more importantly, they breathe fresh air and, like my mom, they walk pretty much, around the house, going around our neighborhood, and to the church. So at the age of 100, she still walks an average of one kilometer a day. And more importantly, she has been thanking God for the gift of life.
I was able to talk to a friend of mine who when I was in New York. Almost twenty years ago, she was taking post-graduate courses in toxicology at Harvard. Her job as a toxicologist is to detoxify those who poison themselves. She said, “Up to now, I just couldn’t understand why people would even think of poisoning themselves.” Well, part of the reason why she couldn’t understand is because she is not a psychotherapist, she is a toxicologist. Another thing is, she is grew up a good Catholic, and had no problems at all, so she couldn’t really understand why there are people who are supposed to be in their right mind who would attempt to kill or destroy their own body.
In today’s gospel, we heard St. John the Evangelist relate to us a story which is quite rare in the gospel, one of the rare occasions when our Lord is angry. The way St. John the Evangelist describes it, the Lord Jesus made a whip out of cords and drove away those people who sold oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the moneychangers in the temple area. And He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John the Evangelist added, “He was talking about the temple of His body.”
We all know that our body is God’s gift, and that is why St. Paul couldn’t emphasize this enough. So he used very strong words when he said, “Do you know that you are God’s temple, that the spirit of God dwells in you, so that whoever destroys this temple, God will destroy him?”
We all know that there are segments of the population who, although we couldn’t imagine that there are people in their right mind who would do so, would desecrate the human body. We are on a journey towards heaven, not to go down to the nether world. And our goal is to be with God for all eternity. In the meantime, God’s gift to us, our human body, is to be taken care of.
It is not my specialty to point out the obvious. All we need to do is listen or watch news on TV or shows on TV. Go surf the Internet. There are certain segments of the populace who would desecrate a human body, God’s temple, God’s creation.
And that is why today’s first reading, which is taken from the Book of Exodus and is about the Ten Commandments, has given us guidelines on how to live. In the second reading, in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he says Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God is our hope, that we may be able to see God in the presence of every person that we meet every single day.
I was so happy to see one of our youth who is now in college. I said to him, “Oh, you’re here.” He said: “Yes, it is Spring Break. So I am here to help out, hopefully here in the church if I can do anything, and with our Youth Ministry, and of course, help my mom and dad.” This is not an isolated case. There are so many youth, college students during Spring Break, who are doing something good for their neighbors.
Of course, what the rest of the world knows is the Spring Break being featured on TV: about college students who desecrate their temples of the Holy Spirit. Well, I would say the majority of our young people today are still good. They have the desire to make something of themselves, to make this world a better place to live in. But these good young men and women, they are not being followed by the cameras of CNN or Fox. They’re looking for the bad news. That is why I very seldom, if ever, watch news on TV. I just look at the headlines on the Internet and include them in my evening prayer. Just the headlines. I don’t go to the details.
As one car insurance commercial says: “Everybody knows that,” that you’ll get 15% off your car insurance. Well, let’s go to what everybody knows. What people usually know but forget is that we have a God. We have a God who is always with us. We have a God who is taking care of us, giving us guidance and that is why, here in Holy Name, we have a ministry, we call it Health and Holiness. Not only taking care of our soul, but also our physical body. And if you have not visited, it has its own website, by the way. Please visit the short explanation of this ministry.
Our Lord is asking us not only to live a life worthy of our dignity as sons and daughters of God in this world, but even after death. We are being asked to respect the remains of our human bodies. That is why, although the Catholic Church is now permitting cremation, we still treat the cremains in the same way as we treat the body. We have the same ritual. That is why the Church doesn’t approve of ashes being scattered all over the place.
A little more than twenty years ago there was already a practice of human ashes being sprinkled into the sky from airplanes and spread over the ocean from ships. According to the Associated Press, Brian Kelly of Detroit had something more glorious in mind. In July 1994, Kelly, who lived in suburban Detroit, suffered complications from surgery on his intestines and, knowing he was soon to die, Kelly told his family what he wanted done with his remains, and although his request was unusual, his family granted it. Kelly’s boss, Mary McCavit of Independence Professional Fireworks Shop in Osseo, Michigan, rolled up Kelly’s ashes in a 12” round fireworks shell, and on Friday, August 12, at a convention of fireworks technicians near Pittsburgh, shot that shell into the sky. It trailed two silvery comet tails, it ascended into the night sky, and then it exploded into red and green stars.
Well, for those who want to go out in a glorious display, one has to admit, that is pretty spectacular. But that’s nothing, my dear brothers and sisters, compared to the glory that God intends for our bodies, for those who believe and have faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The glory of our resurrection bodies will far surpass that four-second arc of light and color. Instead of a cannon report, there will be the awesome blare of the trumpet of God and the voice of our Lord Jesus calling our bodies from the grave. In glorious resurrection, with bodies like that of Jesus himself, we will ascend into the clouds and meet the King of Kings, whose brightness is like lightning shining from east to west. As the Lord Jesus said, we will all shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.