A reflection for the third Sunday of Lent

Peter Nixon reflects on the readings for March 7, 2021.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B)

Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19:8-11
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
John 2:13-25

Reflection: Disrupted lives

Living in Northern California, near Silicon Valley, I always hear talk about “disruption.” The business papers have headlines like “Digital is Going to Disrupt Your Business!” Large companies live in fear that small, nimble startups will suddenly overtake them the way Netflix conquered Blockbuster Video. 

Nobody really likes disruption. But sometimes it’s the only way organizations and individuals change and grow. In the Bible, we regularly encounter a God who is disruptive, often taking people away from the familiar and forcing them to cope with situations that are unexpected and challenging.

Today’s first reading, from the Book of Exodus, seems like a straightforward story about God giving the faithful the Ten Commandments. But this only happens after Moses leads the people out of Egypt, away from everything they know. Even though they had been slaves, many of them complained to Moses that it was better to live as a slave in Egypt than to die in the desert.


Only in the desert, however, would they come to understand that everything they had—food, water, their very lives—was the gift of a gracious God. It was that God who offered them not merely a set of commandments but also life-giving relationship.

In today’s gospel, we hear how Jesus was more than a bit disruptive, too. Families had been coming to Jerusalem for generations and buying animals for sacrifice at a market inside the temple. It was certainly easier than bringing them from their home village. By overturning the tables and driving out the animals, Jesus was—albeit temporarily—shutting down the temple, the place where God was believed to be most fully present on earth. It was a shocking act aimed at getting people to recognize that, in Jesus, God was doing something radically new.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in many ways. Families have lost loved ones and been unable to mourn them in the way they wish. Parents are trying to do their jobs and help their kids with online school at the same time. Many of us have been working at home for a long time and those that aren’t are taking greater risks on behalf of others. Churches are worshipping outside or on the web. It’s been a hard year.

But like those little blades of grass that shoot up after a California wildfire, there are also signs of hope in today’s pandemic world. People are asking deep questions about the meaning and purpose of their lives; Communities are coming together in new ways to help those in need.  These are reminders that, even in the midst of great disruption, God is always with us and always working to bring good out of a bad situation.

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