When we focus on improving our honesty and fairness in dealing with others … life will be better, our sins will reduce


When we focus on improving our honesty and fairness in dealing with others … life will be better, our sins will reduce

It helps us understand the Gospel better when we have a little history about the Passover: attendance was mandatory at least once in your life; and Jews were to pay the temple tax in Jewish coins (clean) and not in foreign coins (unclean).  So the money changers were extorting people on the exchange rate; similar to some people, or banks, who charge large fees or give poor exchange rates and keep the benefit for themselves.

Are we guilty of creating difficult situations or processes that force people to lose time, money or be frustrated: that is, we make it difficult for them to lead a good life?

The anger of Jesus can surprise some people: does God get angry?  The theologians tell us that God does not get angry: God is not like typical human beings who get angry, happy, sad, etc. all in the same day.  God is unchanging.  So what does it mean that Jesus was angry?

Consider this: when our parents get angry because of our bad behaviour, is it out of hatred or wanting to say that the issue is very serious?  If our parents just speak quietly we would not listen!  Jesus used anger (we call it righteous anger), to get the attention of the Jewish Elders.

Jesus was waking people up to the fact that there is a problem of justice here.  People were being treated unfairly, and that dishonesty is the thing that brought disgrace on God’s house.

Often when we think of Lent, we confine ourselves to acts of charity for others, more prayer, etc.  The word REPENT is the Greek word meaning: ‘face another way’ or ‘turn around’ or more literally, have a ‘change of mind’ or a ‘change in heart.’

In our Christian context, it’s more important to focus on ‘seeing in a new way’ rather than fighting bad habits/ actions head-on, directly.  Otherwise, after Lent we just act like before.

This Lent, let’s look at the processes we use when dealing with other people, rather than my ‘private’ sins.  Do we pay people a fair wage?  Are we just following the minimal laws in force or do we look at the people and look at the economic situation?  Are my profits more important than the ability of my staff to live with means for education, medical, food and transport?

Do we happily cheat if we can get away with it?  eg. when we buy something, do we tell the shop-keeper if they make an error in the cost charged?  Or do we celebrate getting away with a cheaper price than expected?

How do we treat our neighbour next door?  Do we respect their need for sleep or do we make disturbing noise late at night?  Do we pay our fair share for the common boundary fences?  Do we throw rubbish over the fence, or along the road and create pollution for people?

When I have a picnic in the park, do I clean up properly and leave the environment clean and nice for the next person: even better than before we came?

The First Reading reminds us about the Commandments that God gave us long ago to enable people to live together in community: we should view these laws as a life-giving escape from chaos/ uncertainty (or fear/ unhappiness) in our lives, by improving our treatment of others.

We find meaning and happiness through community life. But that only works if we all behave according the same code of practice. As we improve the processes we use in relation to others our ‘private’ sins will also reduce.

When we feel angry with others, it’s good to check if ‘I’ am the problem? Perhaps we can see the 10 Commandments this way:

  1. God: I am always there to help you:
    don’t look elsewhere, I created you in love and I know what makes you tick!
  2. God: if we go together, we’ll go far: if you trust in material things they will fail you.
  3. God: if you respect me, you will trust me: otherwise you will live in fear every day.
  4. God: if you take a rest every week: you will achieve more the following week.
  5. God: appreciate your parents: so you will remain humble and not make enemies.
  6. God: forgive your neighbour for mistakes: then they’ll be able to help you tomorrow.
  7. God: don’t eat outside your family: you will come back to an empty home.
  8. God: don’t take other’s property: you’ll live in fear of losing what is yours.
  9. God: be honest with your neighbours: so you can always sleep in peace.
  10. God: celebrate your neighbour’s success: you will make many friends who can help.

This new way of ‘seeing’ might help us recognise that our bad habits and ‘selfish’ actions are also hurting us and making our tomorrow more difficult.

God wants us to be happy: the 10 Commandments are given in love, not anger.  We encounter God’s love & joy through our Community moving together in the same direction.

By Gerard Conlan, OMI