Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Lent: Ex 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17; Ps 19:8-11; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25 (if you hear different readings, your parish may be using the Year A readings that go with the Scrutinies for RCIA)
“Sarah, do you take Mark for your lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse … until death do you part?”
Are there two more powerful words in the world?
More than thirty years later, “I do” has become “we will.” Two people, standing side by side as one couple—having and holding through sickness and health, through want and wealth. Neither of us can imagine what we’d do without the other.
Not every marriage works out, to be sure. But when it does – it gives us a peek into the relationship between Christ and the Church: the heavenly Bridegroom and his holy Bride.
God loves us so much! Two weeks ago, we saw in the covenant with Noah that he worked to save us from the chaos caused by sin. Then last week, Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac gave us a foretaste of the enormous depth of God’s love, that he would sacrifice his own son in our place so we can live. Now for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, the Church gives us the Ten Commandments, the heart of God’s covenant with Moses. These plunge us into our response to God’s offer of love.
The Ten Commandments are intensely personal. They are God’s own words, carved by his own hand into stone and addressed to each one of us. Every pronoun is singular: “I, the LORD am your [singular; personal] God, who brought you [yourself] out of…that place of slavery….” And they follow on an amazing promise:
“Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples” (Exodus 19:5). The Complete Jewish Bible reads “you will be my own treasure”.
It’s tempting to think of the Ten Commandments as the Ten Restrictions. But God gave them to Israel so they could experience the blessings of belonging to him. Just like loving each other through the ups and downs of life, for better or for worse, enables my husband and me to experience the blessings of a good, strong marriage. It’s not for nothing that the rabbis speak of the “ten words” (their literal name) as the “ten wedding vows.”
In fact, every Jewish wedding recalls the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai: the chuppah (canopy) recalls the cloud of God’s presence over the mountain (Ex 19:17); there is a mikvah for ceremonial cleansing (see Ex 19:10-14); there are two copies of the ketubah or agreement, just as there were two tablets of stone written with the ten “vows”; and a ring is given as a sign of the marriage, as the Sabbath was instituted as a weekly sign of belonging to God (Ex 31:16-17).
The Ten Commandments are all about love. John Parsons of Hebrew for Christians has summarized them this way:
- “I am your only deliverer, the One who loves and chooses you;
- Love me exclusively;
- Regard my love as sacred;
- Rest in me;
- Honor your life and its history. Do no harm to others:
- Forsake anger,
- Abandon lust,
- Renounce greed, and
- Abhor lying.
- Refuse envy.
Know that you belong to me and that you are accepted. Love others as you are also loved.”
In the Mosaic covenant, God swore eternal devotion to his people and they swore their devotion in return. It was to the Ten Commandments that the people said “I do.” Years later, Jesus said that the greatest commands are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40).
The Ten Commandments are all about love.
On Sunday, a reading of the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 is followed by Psalm 19, which praises the Law as perfect, refreshing, enlightening, just; precious, enduring, and sweet. “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life,” we respond. He has given us his word! Not just in the commandments that guide and describe our lives, but in his Son. Let’s use this week to meditate on our ten “wedding vows” and examine our lives in their light. Are we loving our Bridegroom well?
Today I say again to God, “I do.” Do you?
© 2015, 2021 Sarah Christmyer.
This was previously published March 3, 2015, on this site.
+ + + + + + +
What have you learned from this series, or how has it struck you? I’d love to hear from you below (or email me at Sarah@ComeIntotheWord.com). Bless you!
Read about this series here: Lent, Year B: GOD HAS A PLAN!
Coming next: 4th Sunday of Lent: CALLED BACK TO COVENANT
+ + + + + + +
Take Scripture into your week during Lent with this free Monday-Friday reading plan for Year B (2015, 2018, 2021…): Download 40 Days in the Bible-Yr B.