There are many places of worship here, and around each usually is a bustling market doing brisk business. The markets are there without intention to distract the worshipper but to take advantage of the opportunity given the high traffic of people. It however does highlight the gravitational pull religion still have in Asia. Belief is in the centre of our inner self; it will shape how we live our life.
Belief gives birth to faith, and faith dictate our lifestyle. A deep, developed faith decrees our values and way of life.
One of the most popular stalls in the market is the lottery seller. Many people come away from worship knowing they are blessed, and somewhat hoping that this blessing will translate to winning a fortune. Nothing wrong with hoping. There are many permutations to win a lottery, as there are permutation of choices to build our belief to live a life of faith in God.
We believe in God. Around this belief, like in the second reading, we look for signs of God in our material world. Belief is in the core of our being. We must be silent and travel within, to reach it and build on it so that it can flower into faith. But somewhat like the markets around the centres of worship, there are distractions that will distort our belief in God.
Worldly life encircles our belief. Who will want to believe if belief wins me the privilege of carrying a cross my whole life? Like a marketplace, when we believe, we expect to win; we barter faith for material blessings. It is a marketplace not of things to buy but beliefs to subscribe to. One of which is the prosperity gospel, where faith is built upon the belief that being Christian bring us wealth and health.
‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ (Today’s Gospel)
Our belief must be based on solid foundations. Repeated rituals are not a formula where our belief can be persuaded towards being superstitious. Rituals are meant to bring us closer to the sacred. Believing must first lead to belonging. Faith decrees that we belong to the sacred Body of Christ. In this body, our belief must be built on the care for one another. Faith flowers in the love of God and for each other.
Lent highlights the wisdom of self-denial at a time when we are consumed by self-concern; when we give up something for self, we want to give it to the other. This is the wisdom of love. Here is part of the Pope’s Lenten message:
“Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion. Love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives. It enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers and sisters. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness”.
Belief without acting is limited faith. It must be expressed in deeds. Worldly life is our marketplace where we trade life experiences for this wisdom. And wisdom is the cord that Jesus uses to whip and drive out the wrong notions that form our belief.
“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength”. (Second Reading)
3rd Sunday of Lent