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How Do I?

Fr. Tom’s Letters

 

Each week Fr. Tom writes a letter to parishioners in our bulletin.  Every letter is comprehensive, including current information about the Parish, an explanation of Scripture for that Sunday, and an invitation to become more engaged in the life of the parish.

 

 

 

 

March 3, 2024

Dear Parishioners,

Now that we are fully immersed in the Lenten season, the gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent I find “sobering.” It is a gospel that offers some difficult themes. At the beginning of the gospel, we are given an image of an angry Jesus. With that image of Jesus, we are given the suggestion of a lack of reverence for the temple as the described activities portray this holy place of God being used as a “marketplace.” Finally, we are told that “Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all…” That Jesus was not able to trust them conveys to us a very unsettling picture.

We do not read many passages about an angry Jesus. Anger is a very difficult emotion. Sometimes anger feels justified; other times anger seems misplaced, even inappropriate. I have struggled with anger, at times on a very particular occasion; at other times I have been afflicted with an angry spirit. Anger has an effect both on the person who is angry and on those who are the object of another person’s anger. When anger leads to an emotional outburst, justified or not, anger often leads to personal embarrassment, guilt, or remorse. Often anger is an experience of sin. Those who receive the anger of another can feel humiliated, wronged, emotionally upset, even abused. At the very least, appropriate or inappropriate, anger can be very messy.

Clearly Jesus’ anger was not sinful. Still, it was messy with overturned tables. A “sobering” Lent invites us to consider the place of anger in our lives. Lent is a time to confess our anger when it has been sinful. Lent offers an opportunity to repent of anger even when it has been appropriate. Most importantly, Lent is a time to ask the Lord to help us with our anger so we don’t make life messier than it already is.

A second “sobering” element of this gospel is the misuse of the sacred temple space for some other reason, in this gospel, as a marketplace. What is noticeable during Lent and a cause for delight is that more people come to the sacred space of St. Anne’s for Sunday and weekday Mass. After Jesus “cleansing” of the temple, Jesus speaks of his body as a temple. He even anticipates the Resurrection. As he speaks of raising the temple of his body in three days, these words about sacred, reverence, and temple remind us on the emphasis of these holy realities during these 40 days as we prepare for Easter. My prayer and hope is that as we are gathering in such positive ways during Lent, we may continue this great spirit well beyond Lent, through the Easter Season and beyond.

Finally, the third “sobering” element of today’s gospel. “Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.” I find that Jesus “would not trust himself to them,” sobering. Trust is such an important and foundational virtue. I like to call trust “the first lesson of love” as a parent teaches a new born held in the opening seconds of life. Trust is a life skill. Without trust, life can be filled with fear, caution, and suspicion. We know how trust is challenged in so many ways in our culture. So many children are experiencing struggles with mental health. I often wonder if the lack of trust exacerbates struggles with mental health.

That Jesus “could not trust them” is a serious gospel statement. Interestingly, we know that Jesus continued his love, persevered in his mission, and journey to Good Friday when he gave his life for all. Jesus overcame all anger, lack of reverence, and mistrust in the Resurrection. Lent encourages us to continue to love, persevere in our mission, and give of ourselves despite obstacles in our lives. Anger, irreverence, and mistrust can all be overcome with the help of Jesus who knew all of these. Even the “sobering” gospels of Lent are part of the pathway to Easter joy.

Peace be to you.

Fr. Tom