Third Sunday of Lent, Year B

Sunday, March 4, 2018
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

When we have visitors and parents of students join us for Mass here, they often remark to me after Mass what a beautiful church St. Thomas Aquinas is.  I say, yes, it is different than many Catholic churches, but it does have its own sense of beauty.  Especially if you here in the afternoon when the lights are not on, you can see the sunlight shine through our stained glass windows on the west wall, and vibrant colors pour into our church. It really is beautiful.  Yet if you looked at those same stained glass windows on the outside, all you would see are dark spots along a brick wall.  It is only when we stand on the inside that we see their true beauty.


This is a symbol of a challenge we face in our parish's mission of evangelization.  It is not uncommon for those who stand on the outside to say, "Oh, you Catholics are so full of rule and regulations, an endless list of dos and don'ts."  Like standing outside of our church building, what is beautiful just looks like unattractive, dark spots.  Only when we are in the inside do we see that our way of life is not really about rules and regulations, but about relationships.  Only when we stand on the inside and actually live our way of life do we fully appreciate the beauty of our faith and tradition.


Today is the third Sunday of Lent, and our first reading from Exodus is the giving of the Ten Commandments, which are familiar to us from our childhood.  From the outside, they sounds like rules and regulations.  But when we live them, we see that they point to relationships.  It is important to note that these Ten Commandments are given as part of a covenant of love between God and his chosen people.


This is similar to another covenant of love, the Sacrament of Marriage.  Spouses freely accept and chose all sorts of limitations on their lives, especially when they become parents.  But they know that these limitations do not stifle love.  In fact, they set us free to truly love in an authentic way.  The same is true of the Ten Commandments.  We say no to certain things so that we can say yes to love.


It is instructive that the first three commandments deal with our most important relationship, our relationship with the Lord.  The later seven commandments flow from this and speak to our relationship with others.  I do not think it is an accident that the commandments come in this order.


Why?  Well, I have lots of conversations with people throughout the week, and often they are about problems in relationships, with spouses, children, parents, roommates, co-workers.  Sometimes it strikes me that we are talking about the wrong relationship, that we have the cart before the horse.  When we get right with God, all the other of our relationships seem to take care of themselves.  Improving our relationship with the Lord is the first step to improving our relationships with others.  And yet it is the step we so often forget or neglect.  In any conflict, before we talk to the other person, it is really good and helpful to talk with the Lord.


The Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments as part of a covenant of love.  For thousands of years, they have guided Jews and Christians alike.  For thousands of years, they have shown us how to be in right relationship with God and with others.  Like the covenant of marriage, the Ten Commandments set us free to truly love.


If we stand outside of St. Thomas Aquinas and look at our stained glass on our west wall, all we see are dark spots.  Only when we stand on the inside do they reveal their richness and beauty.  If we stand outside our communion of faith and way of life, all we may see are a list of rules and regulations, a list of dos and don'ts.  But if we come inside, we see how rich and beautiful it all is. On the inside, we see that all the commandments point to relationships.  All of the commandments point to love.