Our Relationship with God- Sunday Homily- Sunday, March 7, 2021
“In those days, God delivered all these commandments: ‘I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.’” Words from our 1st reading today from the 20th chapter of the Book of Exodus – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.
Here’s a Top 10 list from the Washington Post regarding things people gave up or were going to try to give up for Lent this year: at 10) fizzy drinks, 9) Coffee, 8) Sweets, 7) Meat, 6) School, 5) Facebook, 4) Twitter, 3) Alcohol, 2) Social Networking, and 1) Chocolate. Maybe your Lenten Sacrifices include one of these things… I suppose you could say that the 10 commandments are the greatest Top 10 list not given by David Letterman. And it really is a Top 10 list of sorts, because there are actually 613 commandments. These are all founded as part of a covenant made at Mount Sinai. So, the thing to know about these commandments is that they fall within the context of a relationship. At Mount Sinai, God is establishing a covenant with his people: I will be your God and you shall be my people. And this agreement presupposes a relationship and a history between them. As we hear in our 1st reading, before God gives any of the commandments, he calls to mind that relationship: I brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. God has freed his people, and the reason he gives these commandments is to help them live and stand in that newfound freedom, so that they don’t end up in slavery again. He wants them to have a different life: a better life. God cares about his people and wants what’s best for them.
If we miss the relationship aspect of this, that this espoused way of life was founded within the context of a loving relationship with a God who wants his people to be free, if we forget this: then the 10 commandments are no longer acts of love and ways of responding to that relationship, they literally become ‘commandments’, commands, just more rules to be followed, and burdens even, which make us question why they should be followed in the first place. The relationship piece makes all the difference in the world. It is no surprise then how the secular culture, which has no room for a living relationship with God, our culture has twisted these commandments around: instead of honoring your father and mother, family life is breaking down. We say, of course killing is wrong, and yet millions of abortions, killing countless innocent children is not only accepted but praised in our culture. Don’t commit adultery, we say, and yet we are swimming in a culture that is excessively promiscuous and that cheapens sexuality. It’s not right to be jealous and covet the things of others, and yet the world says you don’t have enough, so buy this, your life is incomplete without that, and in our envy, we always are left wanting more. While people need truthfulness, the age of relativism is here with competing voices in the social media, news media and Internet, which it makes it difficult to be sure who to trust and believe. Our culture has other gods, ignores the sabbath rest. So, all the while the commandments are praised as a top 10 list for moral living, our culture continues to move in the exact opposite direction. We are trading in that love and freedom God has given to us for a life of slavery in Egypt all over again. This is what happens when we neglect that relationship that God wants for us.
Once again, the Gospel is all about relationships. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. In the Greek language, there are two words for temple. One, word ‘Hieron,’ is a literal building, and the other, which is used in the Gospel today is, ‘naos’ which means a dwelling. Remember, in John’s Gospel, the Word was made flesh, and ‘dwelt among us’. In Jesus, the fullness of God dwells. But people didn’t catch the word play, even insulting Jesus about it: “This temple has been under construction for longer than you’ve been alive, and you can rebuild it in 3 days.” Essentially, they are saying, “Jesus, you are crazy.” So, St. John has to make it more explicit: “Jesus was talking not about the literal temple structure built of stones, but the temple of his own Body. Think of it as the difference between a house and a home. A house is the building. Home is where those relationships exist. With God, it’s about relationships. If we forget about the relationship, then the temple is just a building, it’s just a house, and we come to treat our dealings there as mere transactions. Transactional relationships are economic and functional. They’re based on exchange of money, or goods, or services. They serve a very clear point. And when that point no longer makes sense or has been fulfilled, the relationship ends. Transactional relationships are important. They’re how you got the groceries in your fridge, the place you live, the clothes you wear, and most of the things you enjoy in your life. However, when it comes to creating the deepest and most important connections, transactional mentalities won’t work. The problem is, most people are transactional in their relationships. By their very nature, transactional relationships are about getting the most you possibly can in exchange for as little as possible on your part. They’re all about you, and what you can get out of them. Everything becomes calculated. But love is not transactional. Love is not what about what I can get, but what I can give to others out of myself. The relationship with God is not to be transactional. This is not a marketplace! Jesus isn’t overturning those money tables because he is indifferent. God is passionate about us and cares about our relationship together.
And the sign and proof of that is that God is willing to give up of himself, his own body, his own temple to restore that relationship with us. That cross on which he lays down his life is proof of that. Of course, he understands human nature very well. Look at those band-aids. God came to dwell among us to share in these hardships. He takes our burdens and struggles, our sins, our experiences of death, he takes them all upon himself. His zeal for his house, for his home, for the relationships with the people God loves has literally consumed him. Sure, you could say, there is little to be gained, such love is foolishness. Sure, you could say, that cross signifies destruction and death. The Jews and Greeks understood this. And yet, and yet… they missed the relationship that God was holding out to us, and how that relationship is not merely a transaction but that it has the power to transform us and who we are. I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery – so be free! These commandments will help you to stand in that freedom, not be burdened by sin, and be people of love. Jesus says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” – there will be new life! That cross becomes a sign of victory. It is proof that God can love us through anything. God’s power and wisdom in Christ is beyond our own.
So, it’s time to claim our symbols once again. Embrace the commandments as a way of life, different and better from the ways of the world. It’s a top ten list, yes, and with that a chance to get back to the basics. Indeed, the point of them is to teach us how you can love God and each other and not fall back into slavery. There is no better top 10 list to help us to live in authentic and healthy and loving relationships. Likewise, embrace the cross. It is more than a symbol of death. In the marketplace, this self-giving love is indeed foolish. But in the context of a relationship, it is the symbol of the depth of God’s love. So, put your band-aids up there. Cast your cares upon God who cares for you. Enter into that relationship that God wants to have personally with you, knowing that he shoulders your burdens and walks together with you. This is more than God’s house; it is his home. Come home to Christ and renew your own relationship with God who loves you so much.