On the first two Sundays of Lent, we pondered the Noahic and Abrahamic covenants. This Sunday, we dwell on the Mosaic covenant, one of whose highlights is the ban on the worship of false gods. This is a central idea of our faith, echoing as it does in the Gospel text that shows Jesus in an unprecedented act of expelling those who had desecrated God’s house. He is the God of mercy and love, but also of justice and zeal for His Father.

The First Reading (Exod. 20: 1-17) reminds us of the identity of the Lord our God. He delivered not only the Jews, out of bondage, He delivers us at every moment of our lives. How, then, can other gods ever flash before our eyes? Our loyalty must be only to our God who saves! Let alone inanimate, graven images; we ought not to bend down or serve any other idol – things or humans (many of whom, alas, have sold their souls!)

God has issued the Decalogue for our easy reference and guidance; whoever bypasses it, does so out of convenience or arrogance, not inability. And woe to those who think they can pull the wool over our eyes. No manner of theological deftness, in an attempt to please everyone, can hoodwink God…. Then, why can’t we simply call a spade a spade? Isn’t our communication supposed to be ‘yes, yes; no, no’? (Mt 5: 37) If not, the claim that when God is for us none can be against us (cf. Rom 8: 33) will come across as mere rhetoric…

In today’s Gospel text (Jn 2: 13-25) Jesus is portrayed as our role model par excellence. He acted single-handedly and single-mindedly, against those who had idolised mammon. ‘Think ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation,’ he had forewarned. And separation is what He brought about between the authentic and the fake in His Father’s house. He drove the latter out with a whip of cords and overturned their negotiating tables. His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Thy house will consume me,’ and this was now playing out before their very eyes.

Humanly speaking, we tend to think that Our Lord was wrong in what He did. That is not true; Our Lord proceeded with extreme care, but did not fail to do what He had to do – to call a spade a spade! According to the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, who experienced visions of the life and passion of Jesus, Our Divine Master had gently admonished the vendors on an earlier occasion, corrected them on a second, warning them that he would act on the third occasion, if any.

It is no surprise that the Jews tried to checkmate Jesus, saying, ‘What sign have you to show us for doing this?’ During Our Lord’s three-year public ministry, there were signs galore – healing the sick and bringing the dead back to life; what else could one ask for? Besides, it was all written in the Jewish scriptures, from times immemorial; the Pharisees and the Scribes, the teachers and leaders of Israel, knew it all very well – ever since they sighted the Star of Bethlehem! There was obviously a lot of malice in trying to play that down.

It was now already the eleventh hour. The time for the final showdown had arrived. However, when Our Lord announced that He would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, the said dissenting Jews were flummoxed. With them was fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, which said: ‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive.’ (cf. Mt 13: 14) ….

And what about you and me? It is as though the rest of Isaiah applies to us! Haven’t our hearts grown dull; aren’t our ears heavy of hearing and our eyes closed? Note Our Lord’s words to those who take Him for granted: ‘Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.’ (Mt 13: 17)

Let us, therefore, appreciate that God’s commandments help us establish a personal rapport with God and our fellow human beings. To us who are in pursuit of the truth, they provide a roadmap and spare us the pressures of our crazy times. But then, are we any different from the Jews who expected signs, and the Greeks who demanded knowledge?

St Paul in the Second Reading (1 Cor 1: 22-25) says that Christ was a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles. What about us? Are we ready to preach Christ crucified and stand by the folly of the Cross? Let us ask the Lord our God for the light to see His commandments clearly; for the strength to act accordingly, calling a spade a spade; and pray for that much needed grace to get to the depth of the Paschal Mystery.