Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel
March 2, 2024 // Perspective

Lent Reminds Us of Our Humanity – the Good and the Bad

Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel

Third Sunday of Lent

The Book of Exodus is the source of the first biblical reading this weekend.

In Hebrew history, the Exodus virtually was unsurpassed as an event of great significance, unless perhaps this distinction goes to creation itself. In the Exodus, the Hebrew people, enslaved and dreadfully mistreated in Egypt, escaped. Eventually, they found their new homeland.

None of this good fortune happened because of luck or human strategy. Rather, God’s power led the Hebrews to a successful escape from Egypt. Moses, their leader in this endeavor, was chosen by God for the task.

As the flight was underway, Moses received from God and then gave to the people what long has been called the Ten Commandments.

These familiar commandments formed the essential requisites for the relationship between God and the Hebrew people. By observing these commandments, the people fulfilled their obligations under the Covenant. It was as if the commandments were a legal contract, obligating both parties.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians goes to the heart of the Christian message. Christianity preaches Christ. In this reading, Paul asserts that Jesus is the key to salvation. So, the apostle declares, he preaches, “Christ crucified.” It is a “stumbling block for the Jews, and an absurdity for the Gentiles.” (The Jews, suffering under Roman oppression, and enduring so much, were inclined to regard Jesus as an imposter and blasphemer. Others, “Gentiles,” regarded Jesus as a convicted felon, found guilty by the jurisprudence of Rome that proclaimed its extraordinary wisdom and perfect justice.)

For its Gospel reading, the Church this weekend gives us St. John’s Gospel.

This weekend’s reading is one of the most familiar sections of the New Testament. It recalls the moment when Jesus, shortly before Passover, entered the Temple precincts and saw a brisk traffic in the things needed for ritual sacrifice. Furious, the Lord drove the merchants away.

He then hinted that the Temple would fall, a virtual
blasphemy for many who witnessed this event, and then made the astonishing announcement that He would rebuild the colossal structure in three days. (It had taken many people many years to build the Temple in the first place.)

The Gospel reading sets the stage for Good Friday when the accusers of Jesus would refer to the Lord’s prediction that the Temple would fall, claiming that Jesus was a blasphemer and a troublemaker. The Lord’s prediction regarding the rebuilding of the Temple in three days looked ahead to the Resurrection.

The reading establishes Jesus as God’s voice, and God’s agent. He was outdone at the exploitation of religious sincerity. Good people earnestly followed their traditions in praising God. The merchants used this sincerity for their own commercial benefit.

The people who wished to honor God were being used, making of them innocent prey for the selfish greed of the moneychangers.

This reading reveals something else about the bystanders. Many failed fully to grasp the Lord’s identity. They scorned Jesus. They dismissed the words of Jesus.


Lent reminds us of our humanity. Despite all the differences in lifestyles and scientific knowledge, nothing essentially makes us different from the people who were contemporaries of Jesus. We, as were they, are only humans, subject to human limitations.

Being human has its bright side. We congratulate ourselves, for example, on the brilliant accomplishments of human ingenuity, but, on the dark side, like the accusers of Jesus, we often fail fully to see reality.

The surge of immigrants is a much-discussed, complex problem in this country. The pope, and American bishops, insist that truly understanding the situation requires seeing in each immigrant a human being, a precious child of God, whom any true Christian must love and respect.

Remember Jesus. See everyone, and everything, with the eyes of Jesus.

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