A reading from the Book of Exodus
Here the Hebrews are given the Ten Commandments by God, through Moses. The first three deal with every person’s relationship with God, and the first commandment sets the Jewish people apart from all other nations. At that time, most people were polytheists—that is, they worshiped many gods that were not the one God: the sun, moon, stars, animals, and many more. Over the years, the Hebrews, too, were tempted to engage in false worship. This commandment is the most important of all, because it creates a powerful bond between God and the whole nation and with each person. Yet the bond was always in danger of being broken by false worship.
The last seven commandments deal with a person’s relationship with others. These, too, constituted a quantum step forward in laying out standards for good behavior within families and communities. Of course, the commandments were stated in the context of a society thousands of years ago, a patriarchal society that we are still struggling to go beyond, a society in which there is no slavery or gender inequality.
“Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.” On one level, the commandments are words of everlasting life, but on a much deeper level, Jesus is the Word of God who gives us the gift of everlasting life.
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
A crucified Savior, a crucified God who did not save himself, seemed like foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews. Paul tells the Corinthians that this supposed foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and stronger than human strength.
You and I are always looking for human wisdom and strength, and so it should be in our everyday lives. However, there are times when we need the wisdom and strength of Jesus which might seem to others as foolishness and weakness. At those very times, we need to pray for discernment to know what we are really called to do.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
John’s Gospel is full of signs, but here, after Jesus drives the moneychangers from the Temple, people ask him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” He answers by using the Temple he has just cleansed as an analogy form himself as the repository of the Presence of God. If they destroy the Temple of God, he tells them, he will restore it in three days—referring, of course, to his resurrection.
All religions, including our own, can become too focused on wealth and corrupt the very message of Jesus, who was a poor man dedicated to helping poor and sick people. It is important to listen to Pope Francis when he challenges cardinals and bishops who have become too fixated on material things and positions of power instead of on the Reign of God and the people who are in need of healing, forgiveness, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Painting: Moses with The Ten Commandments, Philippe de Champaigne, 1648
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.