God is jealous for you because he wants to take the throne of your heart.

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THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

In this third Sunday of Lent (Year B), it is good to remind ourselves that lent is a special time by which God wants to bring us back to him through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are practical means that bring us back to God. Though distinct, prayer, fasting and almsgiving belong together and complete each other.  During this liturgical season, every day, the sacred scriptures highlight one or two, or even all these three means together. My meditation considers today’s readings from the perspective of the impact of fasting in the life of Christians. Indeed, a genuine fast enables the faithful to do a thorough cleaning of all things that have become idols in their life in order to let God take the central place in their life.

In the first reading, we hear the Lord God warning us, saying: “You shall not have other gods beside me. […] For I, the Lord, your God, am a Jealous God.” Jealousy can sometimes sound petty especially when it is about our insecurities or competitions for attention and affection. God, however, is neither insecure, nor is he in competition because everything belongs to him. God is jealous because God loves each of us. At the same time, each one is also called to love God – as it is written in Deuteronomy 6: 5 – “…with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Each person is so dear to God that it becomes saddening and shocking when some of us choose some material objects as substitutes to God in their lives.

God is jealous for you because God cares about you. Perhaps an illustration may help. Let us recall the words of Kyle Idleman, a Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville (USA) as he excites our imagination in explaining how jealousy in this sense implies caring:

“As I discussed this concept with our church, I asked everybody to imagine going to a local restaurant and seeing me having a romantic candlelight dinner with a woman who is not my wife. Then, I said, imagine yourself walking up and asking me, “Who are you with and what’s this all about?”

            Picture me smiling nonchalantly and saying,

“Oh, I’m on a date.”

            “But what about your wife?”

            What about her? I love her too. I’ve taken her out plenty of times.

            I am pretty sure you’d walk away angry and disgusted, and you’d have a good reason.

            Can you imagine my wife, afterward, meeting me at the door with a big smile? She would say, “Hi honey. Did you have a good time on your date?”

            Her hurt, her anger, and her pain would be enormous. And in fact I would be offended if she didn’t feel that way. If she was anything other than jealous, it would show me that she didn’t really care (Extract from God at war).”

God loves you so much that he is jealous when you substitute him with your electronic gadgets: laptop, mobile phone, tablets, etc. These have become so imbedded in our lives that it becomes almost impossible to live without them. Our ears are hooked on earphones, fingers on the keyboard, and eyes on the screen, so that all our being becomes totally absorbed in these gadgets. One of my friends got her mobile phone stolen a few days ago. You could notice how dependent she had become on her cell phone by the amount of tears she shed. She became almost inconsolable not only because it is relatively an expensive brand cell phone but also because all her pictures, privacy, and important documents were lost in the blink of an eye. As we enjoy those electronic gadgets we usually forget millions of people who are being brutally exploited in different mining places around the world to find the minerals that produce these gadgets.

God loves you so much that he is jealous when you substitute him with sweet-sweet (such as chocolate, biscuit and the like) or with clothes in our “bluff culture”, or with cosmetic products to brighten or bleach our skin forgetting that black skin is also beautiful. “So black so beautiful” sang, Innocent Idibia commonly known as 2face in his song African Queen. While we are happy with all these material goods, we often forget the sufferings that are caused sometimes by an irresponsible and unethical production of these things. I am talking for instance of child labor around the world. These are children that are being employed in cacao farms, factories, sewing workshops, etc. God loves you so much that he is asking you to clean up your life of all these gods through a genuine act of fasting.

Indeed, God is so jealous for you that he not only takes offense at other gods that you have made for yourself, but he also fights to win you back to him. God relentlessly chases after you. Saint John tells us in the Gospel that “Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple… He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" […] “But he was speaking of the temple of his body, says Saint John. And the body of Christ is every baptized Christian. “Do you know that your bodies are members of Christ?” saint Paul asks you (1 Cor. 3:16). Or again, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you (1 Cor. 6:15)?

God admonishes you to stop making your body a market place. Therefore, your fast about electronic gadgets can be an unrealistic dream if you think of it in terms of getting rid of them. We cannot give them up inasmuch as they have become part of our life. They are useful and relatively expensive. Handling these gadgets with caution will enable one to first fight the demon of consumerism that patronizes multinational companies that cheaply exploit our brothers and sisters in different mining sites around the world in order to produce them. Moreover, being moderate in using them will free your ears from earphone, take off your eyes from the screen and fingers from keyboards in order to be more attentive to listen, to look and touch the needy around you. Refraining oneself from drinking excessively (hard or soft drink), eating “sweet-sweet,” smoking or doing any other activities that consume most of one’s income or time, will help you save an amount of money for almsgiving or save your time to engage in some forms of charity work. We are already in the third week of this Lenten season. Where are you in your Lenten observance?

Remember, God warns you: “You shall not have other gods beside me. […] For I, the Lord, your God, am a Jealous God. God is jealous because he loves you and fights for you in order to bring you back to him. Fasting frees us from addictions (gods) and restores to us our true identity: the temples of the Holy Spirit.

May God bless you all!