Preacher’s Sketchbook: Third Sunday of Lent

March 5, 2012

Each week, a Dominican member of the Provincial Preaching Advisory board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.


Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2054-55

Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he also showed the power of the Spirit at work in their letter. He preached a “righteousness (which) exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” as well as that of the Gentiles. He unfolded all the demands of the Commandments. “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill.’ . . . But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.” When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.” The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2072-73

Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart. Obedience to the Commandments also implies obligations in matter which is, in itself, light. Thus abusive language is forbidden by the fifth commandment, but would be a grave offense only as a result of circumstances or the offender’s intention.

Bl. Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

What man is and what he must do becomes clear as soon as God reveals himself. The Decalogue is based on these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20,2-3). In the “ten words” of the Covenant with Israel, and in the whole Law, God makes himself known and acknowledged as the One who “alone is good”; the One who despite man’s sin remains the “model” for moral action, in accordance with his command, “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lv 19,2); as the One who, faithful to his love for man, gives him his Law (cf. Ex Ex 19,9-24 and 20:18-21) in order to restore man’s original and peaceful harmony with the Creator and with all creation, and, what is more, to draw him into his divine love: “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lv 26,12).

Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii

Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother’s womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cries from earth to Heaven for vengeance.

Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on Feast of St. Joseph (2006)

Thus, the Decalogue is intended as a confirmation of the freedom gained. Indeed, at a closer look, the Commandments are the means that the Lord gives us to protect our freedom, both from the internal conditioning of passions and from the external abuse of those with evil intentions. The “nos” of the Commandments are as many “yeses” to the growth of true freedom. There is a second dimension of the Decalogue that should also be emphasized: by the Law which he gave through Moses, the Lord revealed that he wanted to make a covenant with Israel. The Law, therefore, is a gift more than an imposition. Rather than commanding what the human being ought to do, its intention is to reveal to all the choice of God: He takes the side of the Chosen People; he set them free from slavery and surrounds them with his merciful goodness. The Decalogue is a proof of his special love.

St. Augustine, On John

If, then, you busy yourself to see that nothing wrong be done in your own house, is it fit that you permit, so far as you can help, if thou should happen to see anything wrong in the house of God, where salvation is set before you, and rest without end? For example, do you see a brother rushing to the theatre? Stop him, warn him, make him sorry, if the zeal of God’s house does consume you. Do you see others running and desiring to get drunk, and that, too, in holy places, which is not decent to be done in any place? Stop those whom you can, restrain whom you cannot, frighten whom you can, allure gently whom you cannot: do not, however, rest silent. Is it a friend? Let him be admonished gently. . .  Do whatever you can for the part you bear; and so you fulfill, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” But if you be cold, languid, having regard only for yourself, and as if your self were enough for you, and saying in your heart, What have I to do with looking after other men’s sins? Enough for me is the care of my own soul: this let me keep undefiled for God;-come, does there not recur to your mind the case of that servant who hid his talent and would not lay it out? Was he accused because he lost it, and not because he kept it without profit? So listen then, my brethren, that you may not rest idle. I am about to give you counsel: may He who is within give it; for though it be through me, it is He that gives it. You know what to do, each one of you, in his own house, with his friend, his tenant, his client, with greater, with less: as God grants an entrance, as He opens a door for His word, do not cease to win for Christ; because you were won by Christ.

Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei

We desire to commend and urge the adornment of churches and altars. Let each one feel moved by the inspired word, “the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up”; (Ps 68,9; Jn 2,17) and strive as much as in him lies that everything in the church, including vestments and liturgical furnishings, even though not rich nor lavish, be perfectly clean and appropriate, since all is consecrated to the Divine Majesty. If we have previously disapproved of the error of those who would wish to outlaw images from churches on the plea of reviving an ancient tradition, We now deem it Our duty to censure the inconsiderate zeal of those who propose for veneration in the Churches and on the altars, without any just reason, a multitude of sacred images and statues, and also those who display unauthorized relics, those who emphasize special and insignificant practices, neglecting essential and necessary things. They thus bring religion into derision and lessen the dignity of worship.

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP, Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q28, A4, “Whether zeal is an effect of love?”

Zeal, whatever way we take it, arises from the intensity of love. For it is evident that the more intensely a power tends to anything, the more vigorously it withstands opposition or resistance. Since therefore love is “a movement towards the object loved,” as Augustine says (Questions. 83, qu. 35), an intense love seeks to remove everything that opposes it.But this happens in different ways according to love of concupiscence, and love of friendship. For in love of concupiscence he who desires something intensely, is moved against all that hinders his gaining or quietly enjoying the object of his love. It is thus that husbands are said to be jealous of their wives, lest association with others prove a hindrance to their exclusive individual rights. In like manner those who seek to excel, are moved against those who seem to excel, as though these were a hindrance to their excelling. And this is the zeal of envy, of which it is written (Ps 36,1): “Be not emulous of evil doers, nor envy [zelaveris] them that work iniquity.”On the other hand, love of friendship seeks the friend’s good: wherefore, when it is intense, it causes a man to be moved against everything that opposes the friend’s good. In this respect, a man is said to be zealous on behalf of his friend, when he makes a point of repelling whatever may be said or done against the friend’s good. In this way, too, a man is said to be zealous on God’s behalf, when he endeavors, to the best of his means, to repel whatever is contrary to the honor or will of God; according to 1R 19,14: “With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord of hosts.” Again on the words of Jn 2,17: “The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up,” a gloss says that “a man is eaten up with a good zeal, who strives to remedy whatever evil he perceives; and if he cannot, bears with it and laments it.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP, Summa Theologiae, III, Q15, A9, “Whether there was anger in Christ?”

As was said [I, Q36, 3; and II-II, Q158, 2 ad 3] anger is an effect of sorrow. or when sorrow is inflicted upon someone, there arises within him a desire of the sensitive appetite to repel this injury brought upon himself or others. Hence anger is a passion composed of sorrow and the desire of revenge. Now it was said (Article [6]) that sorrow could be in Christ. As to the desire of revenge it is sometimes with sin, i.e. when anyone seeks revenge beyond the order of reason: and in this way anger could not be in Christ, for this kind of anger is sinful. Sometimes, however, this desire is without sin—nay, is praiseworthy, e.g. when anyone seeks revenge according to justice, and this is zealous anger. For Augustine says (on Jn 2,17) that “he is eaten up by zeal for the house of God, who seeks to better whatever He sees to be evil in it, and if he cannot right it, bears with it and sighs.” Such was the anger that was in Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part II

Here [i.e., in this passage on the cleansing of the temple] Isaiah’s universalist promise is combined with the prophecy from Jeremiah (7:11): “You have made my house into a den of robbers.” … Jeremiah is an impassioned advocate of the unity of worship and life in the context of divine justice.  He fights against a politicization of the faith that would see God’s constant protection of the Temple as something guaranteed, for the sake of maintaining the cult.  But God does not protect a Temple that has been turned into a “den of robbers”.  In the combination of worship and trade, which Jesus denounces, he evidently sees the situation of Jeremiah’s time repeating itself. In this sense, his words and actions constitute a warning that could be understood, together with his reference to the destruction of this Temple, as an echo of Jeremiah. But neither Jeremiah nor Jesus is responsible for destroying the Temple: both, through their passion, indicate who and what it is that truly destroys the Temple.



Sunday Preacher’s Resource

Additional Preaching Resources


More News & Events