In the readings for this Sunday, March 4, we’re given the Ten Commandments and a vision of what righteous anger looks like.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
In the readings for this Sunday, March 4, we see God’s unbalanced mercy (unbalanced in our favor) as we’re given the Ten Commandments. Only people who care about you will give instruction and boundaries for relationship; and the Ten Commandments are just that. Three are how to relate to God, seven are how to relate to one another. All of them together are how we live out our gratitude to God for all that we’ve been given, and to show respect to God and all the things God loves.
When we step out of those boundaries, we step into sin — sin that makes us forget who we are. Jesus, when he visited the temple, came face to face with people who forgot they were in service to God and God’s people, and forgot the purpose of the temple. They forgot to put their relationship with God first, and made a mockery of God’s invitation to relationship. Jesus, rightly angry, made a point to correct them so that they could change their ways and return to God. Jesus also foreshadowed that an event was coming that would make the Jerusalem Temple obsolete — that Jesus would become the place of sacrifice once and for all.
In those days, God delivered all these commandments …
Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
God is a jealous God. It says it right in the first reading. But, how could that be, since we know jealousy to be a deadly sin? How can God have an attribute that is sinful in us? It’s a tricky word. When God talks about being jealous, it’s not in a covetous, greedy or selfish way. God already owns everything, so for God to desire something he can’t have is impossible. God is jealous for us — wanting us to have everything, and not wanting us to cheat ourselves out of his grace. His “jealousy” is his desire to give us everything. But, that’s not all we hear in that first reading — we get the Ten Commandments, too.
Going along with the theme of God’s jealous protection of our well-being, we’re reminded of God’s unbalanced mercy toward us. When we sin, the effects of that sin seep into the world for a short time. When we do good, that good is stretched out for an amazingly long period of time. The Second Commandment requires us to rest. We’re reminded of God’s example — he who needed no rest but took it after creating the world so that we’d follow in his footsteps — to be compassionate with ourselves, making sure that we’re recreating after a week of good work. We need to be fresh and ready to make good decisions by taking a break and reconnecting with God. The final seven deal with how to treat one another — because, as Jesus said in his teachings, if we love God, we will love one another.
Living God’s law won’t necessarily get you ahead in the world, and may even seem like weakness to people who don’t know God. But, we realize that what seems foolishness to others is true wisdom. We hold self-sacrifice up as the highest good — we imitate the self-emptying love of Christ and consider it to be the most powerful strength. When we’re centered in God’s love and allow ourselves to be poured out for one another, God makes us an infinite spring, too.
Jesus doesn’t get angry often, but when he does, it’s because people are abusing their relationship with God for their personal gain. The goings-on in the temple had gotten so far off purpose that Jesus couldn’t let it go. God gave it to us, as he gave us the Ten Commandments, to help us be in right relationship with him. We turned it into a business. Jesus took the temple back, and everything that it represented, by becoming it — we couldn’t corrupt that sacrifice no matter how hard we try.
It can be a little scary when people get mad. Do you think there are times when people are right to be mad? What would be an example of that? What are good ways to deal with your anger?
Have you ever had your compassion mistaken for weakness? Did you learn anything about yourself from it? Did you learn anything about the others in the situation? Would you continue to be compassionate, even if you knew people would take advantage or think that you were foolish for it?
What was your view of the Ten Commandments when you were a child? Have they changed now that you are old enough to understand them? In your reading of the Ten Commandments today, can you recognize God’s compassion and mercy present in them? Do you find that you are ever distracted from your true purpose in relationship with God? What tables do you need to overthrow to get refocused?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Jesus was very passionate about people being respectful to God’s presence in the temple and everything that it stood for. What do you get passionate about? What injustices or evils make you want to act? What are some right ways to go about that?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”