Third Sunday in Lent - Year B
The Catholic lectionary offers two options for today's first reading: short and long forms. Often the longer version contains material that is extraneous to the theme of the day. At other times the long text contains controversial material, such as Paul's attitude toward wives. Today it is worth reading the full alternative.
We usually teach children the "10 Commandments". In fact these are condensed renditions or summaries of the actual ones. Centuries of traditions and specifics have been added to the Exodus law code. These refinements deal with specific circumstances in which the original decalog have been applied. Religion usually starts out simple but then aggregates as people bring new questions and situations to bear. It is useful to reflect on the entire law rather than the condensed version for children.
The people of Jesus' day believed that sin could only be forgiven by offering a sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. (Imagine if you could only go to Confession in at St. Peter's in Rome!) Originally people would bring the fruit of their labor--crops or young animals. Gradually the leaders at the Temple began demanding that only the purest offerings could be made. Naturally the leaders sold these in the Temple plaza--at a handsome profit. Worshippers could not even use common money to buy these holocausts. Jewish law forbade any images of human beings or animals. The Roman coins in daily use depicted the Emperor and were thus taboo. Thus to even buy a "pure" sacrifice people had to change their "pagan" money for official "religious" money, again at a profit to the religious leaders. Jesus is furious over this legalized theft for God.
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