It is in Exodus, chapter 20, verses 1-17 that we have a version of the Ten Commandments. These were the basic formulae for good order introduced for when the tribes settled as a nation in Israel which they saw as their promised land. We know that the young need rules to bring discipline and order into their lives, and we are all young in our development towards full Christian living. But notice that it is not just external conformity that is wanted but internal attitude as well, and hence not only ‘do not steal’ but also ‘do not wish you had (covet) what is not yours.’ Some of the commandments are about religion but most about social order and interpersonal relationships – for good community – for once the Israelites settled in the ‘promised land’ religion and social order were much the same – there was no merely civil society.
In the second reading, (1 Cor 1:22-26), Paul develops his message to this community composed of both Jews and Gentiles who can easily disagree with each other, and bemoans the fact that some folk want miracles and signs to support their belief and others want religion to make sense and be reasonable. But, he points out that in matters relating to God, some actions and beliefs that might seems foolish are sensible and actions and beliefs that might to others seem weak are powerful – as evidenced particularly in the last days of the life of Jesus, but should be visible also in the way the Christians live out their Christianity. Like the Corinthians, we may have to do some daring things or put up with worldly scorn to live and improve ourselves as Christians.
The cleansing of the Temple (John 2:13-25), in the other Gospels reads as though it is about the actions of an outraged prophet, doing foolish things which lead to his demise; but in John’s gospel it is about the dramatic transference of the focal presence of God from the Jewish Temple, to the risen Body of Christ. That’s why the dialogue about the destruction of the Temple and its restoration comes within this story rather than at the trial as it does in the other gospels. Incidentally, in John’s gospel the restoration of the Temple is described as it being raised up again in three days, whereas in the others it says it will be rebuilt – raised up emphasizes the underlying and deeper meaning in John. The question of where to worship the presence of God will be raised in John (4:19-21) by the Samaritan woman (a non-Jewish person). The message there as here is that with Jesus there is a new presence of God in the world – in a human person, Jesus; the ‘body’ is how a person is visibly present in our world, and the whole of creation, all people, notably the communities of Christians and the Eucharist are the Body of Christ.
There is a Lenten reflection written by me (Jeff Bagnall) for this Sunday