1st Reading – Exodus 20: 1-17
Some Basics on the Ten Commandments
- They are found twice in the Bible: Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.
- The Hebrew word for law is tôrâ, or Torah, which is more closely translated to meaning guidance, teaching or instruction. Perhaps the best human analogy we have is that of an effective parent with growing children: the parent is serious about child-rearing, but that seriousness includes humor, tact, love, and approachability – all with a view to shaping a small community of supple and ultimately joyous human beings. So it is with God (Holladay, Wm., Long Ago God Spoke, p. 44, 51).
- There are 2 types of laws: case law and apodictic law. Case law is causative, meaning if someone does this thing, then he receives this punishment. There are consequences for our actions. There may be exceptions depending on the situation. Apodictic law is without exception. These are statements of conduct that have no conditions or suggested penalties. They are strong, dramatic demands. The only expected answer is a firm “Amen” said in trust (Boadt, L., Reading the Old Testament, p. 185-186). The ten commandments are apodictic.
Each of these commandments is not some external, irrational demand from an alien god. Rather, each is an expression of the truth God has made in us. If we worship idols or our work, if we covet person or property, if we dishonor those who have given us life, and steal and kill, we destroy what we are. The duty that God imposes on us is not some arbitrary law, but the duty to be true to what we are – limited but loved creatures. Each of the commandments offers life. J Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Encountered”, http://liturgy.slu.edu
Fear was thought to be a valid and effective motivator. Perhaps if people had been more open and receptive to God’s love, these commandments could have been phrased more positively, such as:
“You may do nothing that allows you to lessen yourself;
do all you can daily to esteem your dignity.
You may do nothing that in any way causes harm to anyone
whether in spirit or in body –
you must daily work to build up others in every way.
You may not choose what takes you from the arms of God,
because God has chosen to love you and is therefore vulnerable to you.
After all that God has done for you, you have no reason to cause God pain.
This is all of life.”
Today’s Parish, “Discovering God, Day by Day,” 1994)
2nd Reading –1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
The main issue for Paul is the cross. Some however wanted to ignore the cross. For some the cross was a sign of weakness and failure . . . a sign of foolishness and scandal. But to Paul, the cross is life. He was willing to be a fool for Christ Jesus. Christ crucified is God’s gift of wisdom to the world. (M Birmingham, W and W, B and Celebration, March 2003)
Jesus’ life and death that culminated on Calvary was an ultimate sign of God’s unfailing love for us; we can trust this God. Jews saw such suffering as a punishment for sin; the Greeks saw it as madness. Their heroes and heroines triumphed over suffering and evil. But Paul preached a Christ who is the power and wisdom of God. How do we find this God? Is God still with us in the middle of poverty and hunger and sexism and war? Does God see or care about this suffering? Do we find God working, struggling, caring in the midst of our problems? Perhaps today more than ever the cross is an urgently needed sign. Jesus on the cross gives us hope that good can come from evil, suffering can lead to glory, and that death can lead to resurrection. Because of Jesus we can believe that God will strengthen us to take up our cross, as we fight oppression and help those in need. We can say a trusting yes to whatever God asks. It wasn’t easy for Jesus – it won’t be easy for us. But our God guarantees success – and abundant life. Journey to Joy ,23rd Publications, 1985
The Gospel – John 2: 13-25
This same scene is told in Mark 11:15-19; in Matthew 21:12-17; Luke 19:45-48.
They all happen just before Jesus’ arrest and death. John tells the story at the start. John’s story is right after the Cana story (the wedding at which Jesus changes the water of purification into the wine of celebration) at the beginning of his ministry. By the time this gospel is written, the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed – and the Jews who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah (Christians) had been expelled from the synagogues and separated from the other Jews. What evidence of this is in the reading?
This event might have been one of the most historical events that actually led to Jesus’ death. And, of course, we as Christians believe that Jesus’ death did not have the final answer. This apparent foolishness of Jesus was a part of God’s wisdom. In Jesus we were to realize a new way to God; a new ‘Temple’ was to be built – the Christian community itself was to come to be the very presence, the body of Christ in the world for the benefit of all people.
What is Jesus so angry about? At the time, it was necessary to change the various coins – it was necessary to have animals for temple worship. But it had been that the ‘vendors’ were allowed only in the courtyard of the temple – but now they were inside. Furthermore, the dishonest practices of outdoor market-places may have found their way into the temple: the thumb on the scale, the inflated prices, etc. Jesus knew that humans had been created for more than cheating and being cheated. We had been created to be filled with God’s presence. It was all upside down to find such activity at the very center of this sacred space. Then, in a short time he will be silent and passive at his own trial and suffering. Jesus comes to understand that he must empty himself so God would fill him with his presence – he must be one with us, too, — completely in life, in suffering and in death. Out of all of this, God will bring new life . . . (John Foley, “Spirituality of the Readings” http://liturgy.slu.edu )