The God who has revealed himself to us, and in whom we believe, is a God of loving and lasting relationships. He is a God of covenant love. His commandments, such as the well-known Ten Commandments found in today’s reading from the Book of Exodus, are an expression of the covenantal love that he has for us. The commandments remind us of God’s love for us and our commitment to love him in return. Hence, God says: “I, the LORD, am your God…. You shall not have other gods besides me.” All the commandments are, according to today’s Responsorial Psalm, “words of everlasting life” that refresh the soul. It is no surprise that the tablets of the commandments were kept in the ark of covenant which was the sign of God’s abiding presence with his people.
For many generations God accompanied his chosen people through the ark of covenant, which was kept in a sacred tent. Later, he inspired them to build a temple in Jerusalem, as a privileged place where the God of the covenant would meet his people and his people would meet him. The holy temple became the dwelling place of God. Indeed, the temple was a place both of the covenant and of the commandments. The abiding presence of God gave meaning and orientation to the whole life of his people.
In his infinite wisdom, the God of the covenant planned to extend the covenantal relationship to all the nations of the world. He chose to make a New Covenant that would supersede the old one. He decided to come in person, through Jesus Christ his Son, the Word incarnate. In Jesus Christ, the Covenant is more than a concept, and the life-giving commandments are more than lofty ideas. They become a concrete reality, a Person! The temple, as place of sacrifice, was crucial for the Old Covenant. For the New Covenant, Jesus himself will become the new temple. He will become the place of sacrifice, the High Priest who offers the sacrifice and the unblemished Victim of the sacrifice. This is the meaning of his words in today’s Gospel: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He was alluding to his Death and Resurrection, through which he would establish his own body as the temple of the New Covenant. He instituted the Sacrament of the New Covenant in his Blood, the Holy Eucharist, on the night before his death.
The saving Death of Jesus Christ, through which he became the New Covenant and embodied the temple, is central to our Christian faith. It is through his Death that he, the life-giving Word, gives life to the world. For this reason, in today’s second reading St. Paul strongly proclaims “Christ crucified.” We do not need to “demand signs” and “look for wisdom” elsewhere, for Christ himself is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It is through Christ crucified that we encounter the God of love, the God of the covenant. The way to remain in union with God, the way to remain faithful to the covenant, is through Christ crucified. Keeping the commandments is our participation in his life and death, so that we may share in his glory. This is what this holy and grace-filled season of Lent reminds us. Thus, the readings given for our meditation on this Third Sunday of Lent speak about the commandments, Christ crucified and the temple.
Jesus Christ crucified, whom St. Paul proclaims and whom every Christian should proclaim, is the embodiment of the covenant and of the Temple. It is through him that we have access to God and through him God comes to us. He is the embodiment of the commandments, the words of everlasting life. When we keep the commandments, we are united with him and with one another. Keeping the commandments, which entails a sort of death, is our participation in the death of Christ so that we may share in the eternal Easter of his new life in Heaven.
Is the saving death of Jesus Christ, through which he became the New Covenant, central to my faith? Is Lent reminding me that it is only through Christ crucified that I could remain faithful to him? Am I striving to keep the commandments which entail a sort of death?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 3. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.