by Lisa Fernandes
Today’s readings, on the third Sunday of Lent, are about signs and symbols of God. The first reading is about a physical symbol of God’s word, in this case the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments which were “…written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18) In the Second Commandment we specifically read about the danger of worshipping physical objects meant to signify God: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above…” (Exodus 20.4). This is not a literal prohibition against carving physical images; it is about placing our faith in anything that takes the place of us depending on God. The responsorial Psalm 19 tells us that the precepts law and fear of the Lord are more to be desired than gold: ”More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;…” (Psalm 19.10) The importance of a sign or symbol of God is what it means, not what it’s made of. We encounter in our lives not only religious symbols but also secular ones. The Olympics this year partially took place during Lent. The ultimate quest in the Olympics is for the gold medal, a sign that an athlete is the best in the world and some athletes worship the gold medal almost just like worshipping an idol. Some are happy just to be there and participate. We need to take caution in not relying on the wrong kinds of idols to fulfill us (want to put down your phone?) The second reading continues the theme of the first and reinforces the importance of the cross as a sign and symbol of Christianity. In first Corinthians we read that the Gentiles may see our signs as foolishness however: “The message about the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.18) When we were marked on Ash Wednesday with the sign of the cross on our foreheads, that was a visible symbol of the Cross that also expressed that we are mortal and fallible: “…For dust you are and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) Finally in the Gospel we read the important story about Jesus driving out the moneylenders who were more concerned with the signs of material wealth than this being a temple of God. We see a very angry Christ telling us how important this is. The Jews demanded a sign that he had the authority to cleanse the temple: “…What sign can you show us for doing this?” and he anticipates his death and resurrection. (John 2.18) The most important sign is one you cannot see – your faith.
1 Corinthians 1.18, 22-25