Third Sunday of Lent Gospel Reflection
Sunday, March 7, 2021
by Sister Camilla Burns, SNDdeN
In today’s Gospel, we are moving from the wedding feast at Cana to a riot in the temple. In the Synoptic Gospels, the overturning of the tables in the temple is one of the last things Jesus does before his passion. John’s Gospel presents it as one of the first acts of Jesus and adds the descriptive note of the whip. John uses it to demonstrate the confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish authorities. (“The Jews” is often used to pass judgments of anti-Semitism in the Gospel of John. It is important to note that the problem was not with all Jews but the Jewish authorities. After all, Jesus was also a Jew.)
Jesus signed his death warrant when he cast commerce out of the temple. In the face of the Jewish authorities, Jesus stood up for the truth about the sacred space of God’s presence and the poor, as the business people of the temple were also exploiting the poor with high prices.
What requires us to overturn tables today? Where have we supported the commercialization of our sacred space which disadvantages the poor? Perhaps we can look no farther than our common home, the earth. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urges us to overturn the tables of environmental destruction in order to restore health to our common home, our temple, our earth. The locus of divine presence is not in a building or structure but as far back as the early Christian Fathers, earth is a manifestation of God. The early Church Fathers subscribed to a “two book” theory, which affirms that God’s self-revelation is given to us in the two books of Scripture and Creation and that Christians need to “read” Scripture and Creation together in order to understand the fullness of God’s Word and truth for us today.
Earth is a living creation and like all life, it is susceptible to toxins, abuse and death. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis challenges us to overturn the tables that are destructive to earth which disproportionately harms the poor. Caring for our common home is integral to Christian life. “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue: it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”
On a note closer to home, a group of SNDdeN’s in Scotland gather with a concern for our common home. Part of their participation involves writing letters to themselves from Gaia, the personification of earth in Greek mythology. They then share these letters with each other. I end with an excerpt from Gaia’s letter to Sr. Julia McLaughlin who died in the past year. You need “to be awake so that you can speak out when our world is in danger of destruction. Remember that what you do on your own is valuable and that what you do with others is even more so. Ex parvo magnum – out of little comes great.”
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Meet Sister Camilla Burns, SNDdeN
Camilla Burn,s SNDdeN has been an elementary and secondary teacher as well as a secondary Principal. She taught at Holy Names College, Oakland, Franciscan School, Berkeley, Liverpool Hope University, and Loyola University, Chicago, where she was also the Director of the Institute of Pastoral Studies. Camilla was elected the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Notre Dame (2002-08). Before, during and since her time as Congregational Leader, Camilla has given many retreats and days of recollection to the Sisters of Notre Dame. For five years (2013-2018) Camilla worked with the FCJ community in a Renewal Program and Final Vow Program in France. Also in France in 2018 she delivered a series of talks on the vows for the Good Shepherd Sisters’ Final Vow Program. She has given presentations on the diocesan and parish level in the Diocese of Oakland, the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Archdiocese of Liverpool and the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. She has contributed to Glimpses since its inception. In 2012, Camilla was invited onto the faculty of Trinity Washington University, DC, where she teaches as Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies.