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The 3rd Sunday of Lent Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

All the priests in Alaska, from Archdiocese of Anchorage, Diocese of Fairbanks, and Diocese of Juneau, gather together once a year for a convocation of all the priests. In this annual convention, we recharge our spiritual thirsts, remind ourselves of theological subjects, learn about modern theological tides, foster the fraternity of priests, and integrate the pastoral plans in three dioceses. This is a great time to confirm the solidarity of the priests under the leadership of the bishops for the evangelization of Alaska. We had this meeting two weeks ago this year. It was great. We had a great time together. Two new priests from Nigeria and two from India came to work in Diocese of Fairbanks. This was the first Convocation for them. They said, “It’s been a few months. It’s been cold in Alaska, especially Fairbanks. But I am wearing short sleeves now, so I am adjusting well here.” It’s always good to see some new brother priests.

Anyway, the Convocation this year was a reminder of the Church’s teachings about human dignity and life. It included a transgender issue, safe environment, religious liberty, and the LGBT legislation. The Catholic Church in modern society faces these issues right now, and the Alaskan Church thinks that it is time to bring these issues up and put out the Church’s teachings to the world in a clear, positive, and pastoral way. That’s why we dealt with these issues at the Convocation. At the same time, like I told you last Sunday, all the bishops in Alaska, signed and published a Pastoral Letter to let the people in Alaska know what the Church’s stance is on these issues. This is a quote from the letter, “Most of the issues we face in our time today must be properly grounded in the biblical truth that all life comes from God. The order of nature is founded upon God’s love and fruitfulness. The order of grace by which we are redeemed flows from the one and same living God.”

The Alaskan Catholic Church reaffirms in the letter that all human life is created by God and bears His image and likeness. Therefore, all life is sacred. This divine origin of human life is the source of human dignity. The Church’s stance and position on all modern issues is from the perspective on human life. From this viewpoint, the letter talks about the LGBT issue: “The Catechism teaches that we are not to discriminate against those who have homosexual tendencies. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” At the same time, the letter warns that the modern trends of individuals to choose their genders doesn’t help those who struggle with their sexual orientations because of the relativistic mentality. The Church doesn’t agree with such lifestyles and doesn’t condone immoral behaviors; nevertheless, she recognizes them as brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters who are deserving of our love and respect. At the same time, the Church asks for their love and respect in return for our beliefs.

This Pastoral Letter uses very clear and simple language to prevent people from being confused with ambiguous words. So, I encourage you to read and reflect on that in the season of Lent. Human life is precious and divine because it is from God. We all have received the seed of divinity that cannot be destroyed by any human means and violence. The first reading today is the Ten Commandment. It’s divine law coming from God. God has given this basic instruction manual for life. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house and wife.” The goal of all these God-given commandments is to protect and respect life because life is divine.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is upset about people who are selling things in the Jerusalem Temple. The Temple is symbolic of divinity in the world. This is the holy place. This is the place for God. This is divine. What is divine in the world? Yes. It’s human life. But people use this as a means of getting what they want. Jesus is angry about the destruction of divinity in the world. “Take these out of here and stop making my Father's house a marketplace.” Jesus’ emotional reaction in today’s Gospel tells us how important human life is because it’s from God.

If we look at the second part in today’s Gospel, we probably know more about the connection between our physical life and divine nature. The Jews challenge Jesus about His authority of doing this. “What can you show us for doing this?” Jesus says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” When the Jews feel ridiculed, John the Evangelist adds an explanation about this, “He (Jesus) was speaking about the temple of his body.” Jesus actually identifies His body with the divine nature of human life. His physical body will rise in three days after His death and, by doing this, He elevates the divinity which is imprinted in our body. Jesus refers to a spiritual or messianic renewal of the temple and its function which is the divinity of our human nature. Now we are having the renewed Temple through Jesus’ resurrection. By participation in Jesus’ resurrection, we are granted renewed human life which cannot be destroyed by any human means, violence, lifestyles, philosophical speculations, etc. This is the Church’s uncompromising stance on human life.

It’s the third Sunday of Lent. We are on the journey to the glory of resurrection. We heard about Jesus’ temptation in the first week, which reminded us of human being’s inclination to sin. We heard Jesus’ transfiguration in the second week, which tells us of our own possibility of glimpsing His divinity. Today we are reminded of the renewed seed of divinity in us. The old temple collapses and, on the same spot, Jesus reestablishes renewed human life through His resurrection that is our hope and goal in the season of Lent.

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