the folly of the cross
mocks our human wisdom,
and the weakness of the crucified puts worldly power to shame.
Banish from our hearts
every pretence of might and of knowledge,
that by the power flowing from Christ’s resurrection your people may be raised up from the death of sin and fashioned into a living temple of your glory.
Grant this through Christ, our liberator from sin,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God for ever and ever.
Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Lent
Cycle - B - Taken from the 1998 ICEL
In the never-ending array of polarizing political figures these days, Judge Roy Moore possesses a unique place. When Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama was named the new Attorney General by President Trump, it triggered a special election in his home state for his replacement. Judge Moore was not immune to controversy. He had been removed as chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to relocate a monument of the Ten Commandments that he had prominently displayed in the Supreme Court building. Being the darling of evangelical voters who sometimes view the ‘separation clause’ between Church and State, enshrined in our Constitution, as a mere suggestion, Moore was on his way to winning the election until a dirty little secret was revealed – his predilection to prowling malls as a younger man with the hope of dating teenage girls, which he, in fact did. Despite denials, it was not enough to overcome the disgust of Alabama voters who eventually voted in Doug Jones as the new Senator.
While legal scholars may debate the appropriateness of this judge’s decision to enshrine a portion of God’s word in his courtroom, there is no question that among realists in today’s world - something has gone dangerously wrong with our moral compass.
One need only look to at the tragic litany of mass shootings that have become epidemic in our country, from Sandy Hook to Parkland, from the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando to the Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, a sense of basic morality - a respect and reverence for the most fundamental principles of what constitutes a moral way of life - have been cauterized out of the consciences of the perpetrators of these horrendous acts.
“A moral way of life” - what does that exactly mean for us who have been called into covenant with the Lord and redeemed by the cross and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ?
In and of itself, morality, has to do with how we “ought” to live our lives in response to both ideals and values in our lives. As members of the human family, written within our hearts is the basic moral principle “to do good and avoid evil”. That basic principle of the natural law however has been filled out with exacting specificity in God’s Revelation which we find in the Scriptures.
As Catholic Christians, our moral vision is built upon God’s Word. It is that word that shapes both the ideals by which we live our lives as well as the values that practically determine the choices and decisions we make that are moral, good and life giving to others.
What is the difference between a moral ideal and a moral value? A moral ideal tends to be a distant moral goal which in the abstract we may reverence, but in the daily messiness of human existence we are unwilling to pay the price it often asks of us. For instance, when Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon strip announces, “I love everyone, it’s just people I can’t stand”, she acknowledges the ideal of altruism - loving everyone - but unfortunately, it hasn’t become a value for her in living her everyday life.
It is very tempting for all of us to live our lives out of ideals which we safely give lip service to but are unwilling to embrace as functional values that impact our daily choices and moral decisions in life. When moral ideals become an inconvenience for us, they are safely locked up in the recesses of our conscience only to be paraded out when convenient or expedient.
In 1993, the Best Picture of the Year went to Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg. The film dramatically and movingly tells the story of the fall of the Warsaw Ghetto at the hands of the Nazi’s in their diabolical scheme to exterminate as many Jews as possible through their concentration camps. Yet, some righteous individuals, did what they could to save a remnant of these doomed children of Abraham from this awful fate. That film continues to haunt so many who have seen it with the question: How could this have happened? Wholesale genocide might be marginally understandable in the dark recesses of primitive cultures removed from the civilizing influences of so-called Western Civilization. But this gaping wound in the history of humanities inhumanity took place in the Christian and highly cultured environment of Western Europe. Its diabolical genesis and methodical planning emerged from the minds of men many of whom were baptized and raised in the Catholic faith and formed in cultures imbued with centuries of Christianity.
For them and their accomplices, the Gospel of the living Christ and its call to a change of heart, never went beyond a lifeless ideal which in time lost its power to inform moral choices and became completely corrupted. The reality of sin and selfishness, the arrogance of unbridled power, and vicious scapegoating, expediently took the place of the law of God.
In today’s Gospel, inflamed with the passion for all that the Temple stood for, Jesus throws the money changers out. This place which symbolized God’s gracious and abiding presence with his people, was now being used in a way that was never intended by God. Jesus tells them, “Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
For those who are tempted to use Religion as a pretext for persecution, condemnation of others, inquisitions and pogroms, Jesus’ words to us this day provides a sobering examination of conscience for what we sometimes do in the name of Religion - a Religious faith that can lose its moral moorings.
As our Lenten journey continues, let us pray for the gift and challenge of moral integrity in our lives as Catholic Christians. A moral integrity that is willing to pay the price of letting the ideals of our faith become a living reality in the values that inform our decisions and choices in life.