'The Jews said to Him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up"...' -- Jn 2:18-19

As we continue with Lent and the spiritual renewal we hope to experience, Sunday's first reading (Ex 20:1-17) lays down the law -- literally.

We hear the Ten Commandments as articulated in the Book of Exodus. At this juncture, the people of Israel have been rescued by God from Egypt; they have passed through the Red Sea and have reached Sinai. They are in the middle of making a covenant with God (Ex 19-24).

As part of the covenant, the law is given, so the people know what is expected of them: what it takes to be God's people. The Ten Commandments have passed into our culture and consciousness because they remain perennially valid moral norms. They are "obligatory for Christians," says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and we are bound to keep them.

The Ten Commandments teach us what we have to do to be the best people we can be. They guide us and help us know what to do with the great gift of freedom so that, by our freedom, we can become holy.

Jesus and law
The psalmist (Ps 19:8-9) eloquently describes this: The law of the Lord refreshes the soul, gives wisdom to the simple, rejoices the heart and enlightens the eye. Let's not forget, however, that this pursuit of virtue is not a purely human endeavor. God makes it possible for us to live the commandments and delight in them through His grace.

Jesus perfectly lived the law. In Sunday's Gospel (John 2:13-25), we have a fierce example of His zeal for His Father's house: the driving out of the merchants and the money-changers from the temple.

In a very real way, Jesus is living out the fourth commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother." He refuses to allow His Father to be dishonored, and does this in a dramatic way, whipping the merchants and money-changers and overturning their tables.

Jesus' sense of His Father's honor moves Him to drive out those who have disrespected the sacredness of the temple and that for which it stands. How can we learn from this example?

We must remember that we are temples of God and that the Trinity dwells in the soul of the baptized person who is in the state of grace. If we have committed mortal sin (meaning a grave matter specified by the Ten Commandments, full knowledge and complete consent), we are no longer a fit place for God. Our soul is now the house of merchants and money-changers.

Fury against evil
The solution is to have no less fury than Jesus. In the face of mortal sin, the only remedy is drive out evil through contrition and the sacrament of penance (confession). Once done, our soul, like the temple, has been cleansed by Jesus. We are once again a fit place for God to dwell.

If we hesitate to go to confession, ask why. Sin makes us less human, less good and less like God. Not only that, the reason that Jesus Christ came was to free us from sin. To pretend His sacrifice is meaningless and that a virtuous life is less important than attachment to a fleeting pleasure is foolishness. It is also equivalent to condemning ourselves.

Like St. Paul in Sunday's second reading (1 Cor 1:22-25), proclaim Christ crucified! But, proclaim Him and the power of His forgiveness first to your own heart. Be reconciled to God through the sacrament of penance. Then live out your days, honoring your Father in heaven as you go.