Zeal for God’s House

Homily for the Third Sunday in Lent

Introduction – I have a confession. I’m addicted to my phone. I am constantly texting my best friends and no matter how much I try, I usually end up spending ungodly amounts of time on Instagram. But this Lent I have been working on detaching. So far it has been a challenge, but I continue to work on it each day – balance, putting God first, setting aside distractions, doing the work of the day, but not getting consumed by it. It hasn’t been easy, but it is what we should all strive for as we seek holiness and resolve to more fully live for God each day.

A question that I need to ask myself regularly and I encourage you to think about as well: when was the last time we sat in complete silence?  No devices, no music, no background noise or conversations, just the silence of our hearts seeking the voice of the Lord.

Examination of Conscience – In today’s first reading, we hear the Ten Commandments. We’ve heard them before, probably many times, and for that reason it can be really easy for us just to glaze over them, to go on auto-pilot. But, today let’s take some intentional time to pause and look at them with fresh eyes and a quiet heart and mind.

The commandments root us in our belief in God and how we are called to live out those beliefs as faithful disciples of Jesus. When we reflect on them, we are given the opportunity to examine the ways that we have fallen short of living that authentic discipleship. So, as we prepare for our Lenten penance service on March 16th, I would encourage all of us to use the Ten Commandments as an examination of conscience. Let’s use them as a means of examining our intentions – especially if we continue to struggle with the same sins. I think it is worth our time and effort to dig a little deeper to get to the root and ask the question, why do I continually commit this sin, why do I continually fall in this area? Invite God into that question and, in quiet and in stillness, listen for His response.

This type of reflection is an important aspect of our preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Anytime that we are going to receive the sacrament, which I encourage us do with frequency, there is great value in, first, reflecting and really preparing our hearts for that encounter with God, so that we can be fully receptive to experiencing His mercy and forgiveness freely poured out through that sacrament, a sacrament that we all so desperately need!

Restless Hearts – Going to confession often is an important aspect of growing into the best disciples of Jesus because it helps us to identify the areas of our lives that we fall short of following God’s commandments. It shows us how we constantly seek to fill the voids of our hearts that only God can fill with other things that will never satisfy us. No one is completely satisfied in life, completely fulfilled; we are all searching for that happiness that we were made for.

At the beginning of his autobiography, Confessions, St Augustine touched on how our true fulfillment and satisfaction can only be found in God. St. Augustine wrote: ““You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” The human heart is hungry, but in this fallen world we don’t always remember what exactly our hearts are hungering. And because of that, we sometimes get frustrated when that hunger is not satisfied. We can become discouraged or start buying into the temptation of despair. But it is exactly in those moments that we are called to remember who it is that can satisfy all our longings: Jesus himself. He is the One who came to put hope into that desperation, to give direction to that restlessness.

Only friendship with Him can lead us to the satisfaction that we long for, not because it ends our search – that won’t happen until heaven – but because it puts us on the sure path, the dependable, hope-filled path of the men and women who have gone before us in faith…the saints. We are called to follow their example and to allow a zeal for God to totally invade our hearts.

Zeal for God – In our Gospel today, Jesus boldly casts out those that are dishonoring his Father’s house. While I wouldn’t recommend flipping tables and driving people out of church as an evangelization tactic, I can encourage all of us to be consumed with the same zeal and fervor for God that the saints demonstrated and that Jesus has demonstrated here.

In our world today, the Lord needs us to be witnesses to His truth and remind others that everything we are searching for can only be found in God. We need to be evangelizers that bring people to an encounter with the Lord, an encounter that will forever change hearts and minds. But in order to do that, we have to first have had our own encounters with God; we have to be consumed with a zeal and a passion for God in our own hearts.

As Catholic Christians, do people know that we are followers of Christ by our words and actions? Do we bring people to a deeper encounter with the Lord and express a zeal for God or do we lead people away? Because, here’s the thing, the best way we can evangelize and show others the goodness and glory of God is by being deeply faithful in the example of how we live.

“Zeal for your house will consume me.” Do we have true zeal for God, for God’s people and for the church?

The Holy Spirit desires to do powerful things through us, but we cannot fully avail ourselves to this if our hearts, our discernment, our actions are clouded by selfishness or sin. We have to continually strive to keep our hearts clear of sins such as vanity, pride, fear, anger, and judgment so that we can be certain that we have purity of intention. This once again requires that we take time regularly to silence the noise and ask: what does God desire to do through us?

Conclusion – It is already the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Easter is fast approaching. Are we using this time wisely, to reorient our hearts and minds to the things of God? Are we seeking to be satisfied in Him and Him alone? I pray that this Lenten journey has been fruitful for all of us and that it may continue to be so. But if it hasn’t been, if we find ourselves still falling short, let’s seek guidance from the Holy Spirit to become aware of the areas of our hearts that need healing and wholeness. May we grow more comfortable with the silence and the stillness of Lent and invite God to change our hearts – asking Him for the grace of the spirit of detachment from those things that prevent us from following Him more closely and for our hearts to be filled with a consuming zeal for Him.

Photo: Cleansing the Temple, El Greco

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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