SOURCE: Larry Broding at Word-Sunday.com.
Directions: On this page you will find questions on the Sunday Readings that can be used in RCIA or Faith Sharing groups. Clicking on the PDF icons will give participants additional commentary and resources.

Small Group Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

FIRST READING — This is one of two versions of the Ten Commandments found I the Old Testament. (The other version can be found in Dt 5:6-21.) On Mount Sinai, God enters into a holy covenant relationship with the people of Israel whom he has just delivered from the slavery of Egypt (Ex 19). Briefly, the covenant relationship states: “God (alone) will be Israel’s God. He will travel with them offering protection and guidance. In response, Israel will follow God’s ways.” To help the people of Israel understand more concretely what God expects of them, he gives them the Decalogue (“Ten Words”), better known as the “Ten Commandments.” The first three commandments have to do with Israel’s relationship with God, and the other seven with the people’s relationship with each other.

In the First Commandment, God calls Israel to worship God alone and forbids them to carve any images of him. Israel’s neighbors have many gods and have carved images of them. God is greater than any human attempt to capture him in an icon or statue. God knows that it is easy to move from the veneration of an image (what Catholics do) to worship of it (what pagans do).

“I am a jealous God.” God’s “jealousy” is like the protective care a parent has for the welfare of his/her child. It also means that God must be first in our lives, which does not mean that we cannot have a wholehearted love for family and friends. In fact, putting God first in our lives should help us to have a wholehearted love for all of God’s people. That being the case, if we sincerely abide by the First Commandment, following the other nine will be much easier. On the other hand, if we ignore the First Commandment, we will all too easily fail when it comes to following the other nine.

The Second Commandment calls on Israel to honor God’s name. In fact they so revere God’s name that they avoid using it. In prayer, they use another name for God – Adonai, i.e., Lord. Especially forbidden is the use of God’s name for purposes of perjury, magic and curses.

The Third Commandment calls on Israel to set aside one day a week for worship of God. This commandment also ensures that workers, especially slaves, have some time off.

The Fourth through the Tenth Commandments are intended to safeguard, protect, and uphold those values upon which a holy and wholesome society is built, e.g., family ties and parental respect (Fourth); reverence for life (Fifth); marriage and fidelity (Sixth);rights of proprietorship (Seventh); honesty and sincerity (Eighth); and house work (Ninth and Tenth).

SOURCE ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission. Table of Contents

SECOND READING — Commenting on this reading, Fr. Lawrence Mick writes:

This brief passage confronts us with a basic decision each of us must make. Will we live by the wisdom of the world or by the foolishness of god? So much of our faith life defies conventional wisdom. Our society certainly doesn’t teach us to serve others, to fight for justice for the oppressed or to put love above money, just to mention a few values. The gospel teaches us a whole different way of viewing the world and of responding to life. If we try to live the gospel, many will consider us foolish. Are we willing to risk that?

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

GOSPEL —The Gospel for the next three Sundays will be from John. Many of John’s stories have two levels of meaning which we will come back to later.

Commenting on this Sunday’s Gospel, Fr. Flor McCarthy, SDB, writes:

Jesus’ action in cleansing the temple was a protest against the commercialization of religion and the desecration of the Temple. But it went deeper. It was a symbolic action, in the fashion of an Old Testament prophet (see Jer 7:11; Mal 3.1), through which he passed judgement on the Jewish sacrificial system.

He was declaring that temple worship, with its ritual and animal sacrifices, was irrelevant and could do nothing to bring people to God. He was replacing sacrificial worship with spiritual worship. He was also protesting at the way religion had become narrow, nationalistic, and exclusive. Israel had failed to fulfil her universal mission to humankind. It was God’s intention that the Temple should be a house of prayer ‘for all nations.’ But the Temple remained the jealously guarded preserve of Israel. No Gentile dared venture, under threat of penalty and death, beyond what was known as the ‘court of the Gentiles.’ Jesus declared that salvation was not just for the Jews, but for all peoples.”

Above, we said that many of John’s stories have two levels of meaning, a literal meaning and a deeper meaning. The literal or historical meaning is about the Jewish temple which had been destroyed for many years when John was writing his Gospel. On a deeper level, John is referring to the temple of Jesus’ body which will be resurrected and become the new focus of his followers’ worship life.

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.


1. Share with the group or person next to you what spoke to you most in the Gospel. With this first question, try to refrain from commenting on what others said. Just share what spoke to you and then move on to the next person.

2. Name some ways you see people today violating the First Commandment. What helps you to deep God first in your life? What makes it difficult?

3. Can you give an example where living the Gospel can make you look foolish to others? If you have a personal example, what gave you the courage to be true to your beliefs?

4. How do you feel about people who show zeal for a particular cause? How is their behavior like or different from Jesus?

5. When it comes to worship of God, there is always the danger that our worship becomes ritualistic. We go through the motions of prayer. What can help us to stop that from happening?

6. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

SOURCE: ©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Discussion Questions

by Fr. Clement Thibodeau

FIRST READING — Catholics need to remember that the way we number the Ten Commandments is not the same as Protestants do. When we refer to the Sixth Commandment (adultery), Protestants think we are talking about committing murder! In the Bible, the commandments are not numbered. We have our own tradition as to how we separate them and enumerate them. Protestants separate out the First Commandment into two and join our ninth and tenth into one. It causes confusion when we refer to commandments by numbers. The Law of Moses, especially in the values represented by the Ten Commandments, brings order and respect into the social order. People are never as free as when they are respectful of God and of other people. Happiness and personal fulfillment come only when we are in a right relationship with God and with one another. The commandments are given to Israel, and to us, as an act of love and mercy on God’s part. God allows us to choose freedom by choosing to live according to the goals for which we have been created.

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

SECOND READING — The paradox of the cross, a crucified Christ who was raised to life, stands at the heart of our faith commitment. It seems absurd to those who do not believe. In it is to be found the most profound wisdom for those who have experienced its effect and its power in their lives. When we demand miracles from the Lord, we disclose our unwillingness to see the truth in God’s judgment and in the wisdom of God’s decisions, says Paul. We want things to be on our terms, to happen according to our standards and desires. Paul points to the cross of Christ, his death and resurrection, to show that God operates by different standards.

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

GOSPEL —John relocates the story of the cleansing of the Temple from the time toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, as the other three Gospels have it, to a time at the beginning of the ministry. In the Synoptics, the story functions as a prelude to the final showdown between Jesus and the Temple authorities. John would have us see the raising of Lazarus as that event that caused the ultimate rejection of Jesus by the authorities. He introduces some elements not found in the Temple cleansing as we have it in the Synoptics. Here, Jesus makes a whip out of cords and addresses the dove sellers separately. In John’s account, Jesus does not overturn their tables. John speaks of sheep and oxen being sold in the Temple also.

The point of the story here is the proclamation by Jesus of his future resurrection. The Temple becomes the sign of his human life on earth. Surely, the Temple authorities were outraged and deeply offended by this allusion. There was nothing as sacred as the Temple. How could he blasphemously make that connection: his life equivalent to or even superior to the Temple?

We do not find in John’s Gospel what we see in the Synoptics: a parallel between Jesus and the disciples. The body of Jesus, which will be destroyed in crucifixion and death, only to be raised to new life in resurrection, is not made the model for the “body of believers,” or for the Church community, as we would find it in the other Gospels and in Paul. For John, Jesus is so utterly unique and exalted that his body is not used as an image for the Church which will have to suffer also.

Scripture here is presented as also including the words spoken by Jesus. In John 20:9, we hear Jesus saying that the disciples had not yet believed in Scripture which had announced that he would die and rise again. There, Scripture obviously refers back to this Verse 22 in Chapter 2.

SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.


1. Is it really a sign of the inadequacy of our faith when we beg God for a miracle?

  • Is it true that we must always accept whatever our lot is in life and never seek to change it?
  • Is it wrong to ask God to heal us when we are sick or to ask for the healing of someone we love?
  • Does faith require that we forgo any improvement in our physical wellbeing?
  • Since Jesus says that his resurrection is the only sign worth seeking, must we conclude that it is sinful to seek other signs?

2. Have you ever hesitated to ask God for a favor for yourself?

  1. Do you sometimes try to disguise your personal need by asking God only indirectly, for the wellbeing of someone you love, for example?
  2. When did you finally decide that you could and should pray for yourself also?
  3. What brought you to that decision?
  4. How can you relate your own wellbeing to the resurrection of Christ being made real in your life?

3. Do you often think of the Ten Commandments as an expression of God’s merciful love?

  • Were you brought up to view the commandments as freedom giving?
  • Are you now able to accept the commandments of God as a gift that will bring you happiness if you observe them faithfully?
  • Discuss some example of the bondage that results from repeated violations of the commandments.
SOURCE: © 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

Bible Study Questions

by Vince Contreras

1. In the 2nd Reading, what does St. Paul describe as a “stumbling block” and “foolishness”? Why does he say that? Has your share in Jesus’ cross been a “stumbling block” or seemed like “foolishness” in your life—to yourself or others? How can you more view the cross as Jesus and St. Paul viewed it (verses 24-25; Luke 9:23)?

2. How might the once useful practice of the sale of sacrificial animals at the temple have deteriorated into a racket? Why else was Jesus angry (Psalm 69:10)?  As one of the sellers, how would you feel about Jesus’ action? As one of the disciples?

3. How is Jesus challenged (verse 18)? Why? What effect does this response have on them?

4. Why doesn’t Jesus entrust himself “to men” (see RSVCE) in verses 23-25? See John 3:1-2.

5. If you compare your spiritual life to the rooms of a house, which room do you think Jesus might want to clean up this Lent: a) Library—the reading/media room? b) Dining room—appetites, desires? c) Workshop—where you keep your skills and talents? d) Family room—where most of your relationships are lived out? e) Closet—where your “hang-ups” are?

6. How does Jesus’ cleansing of the temple apply to the Church and to us as Christians (1 Peter 4:17; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20, especially verse 19; Hebrews 12:4-11, 14; CCC 1695)?

SOURCE: © 2014 Sunday Scripture Study for Catholics by Vince Contreras. Used with permission.

Why is Jesus very angry in today’s Gospel?

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

In today’s Gospel, we are presented with an image of Jesus that we may find difficult to visualize. In the reading, Jesus is ‘mad as hell’ with what’s going on in the Temple area, a place of prayer. Can you imagine Jesus outside our church knocking over my book tables and whipping my book salesmen? Whoa! We might wonder: “What’s up with Jesus? Isn’t his reaction to commercialism outside church a bit over the top or, more accurately, way over the top?” So why is Jesus so angry?

At the time, selling animals and changing money in the Temple are not bad in themselves. In fact, they’re a necessity because only a certain type of coin is permitted in the Temple. Cattle and sheep are sold for sacrifice so that people don’t have to drag their animals through miles of desert. What enrages Jesus is the cheating and manipulation. Money changers give people $2 for $3, while others overcharge for animals needed for sacrifice. Jesus gets ‘mad as hell’ because God’s house, which should be a place of true worship, has become a place of greed, where the poor are taken advantage of. This outrages Jesus as it outraged the prophets. Listen to what God says through the prophet Amos regarding worship that doesn’t lead to care for the poor:

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; To the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters; And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Am 5:21; also see Is 1:12-17; Hos 6:6; 8:11-13)

Our monthly practice of bringing to church food for the poor is a good reminder that true worship of God must lead to concern for the poor, or God will be very upset, to put it mildly.

Should we have a problem with the way Jesus expressed his anger?

Can you imagine what kind of society we would have if we all followed Jesus’ example and expressed our anger as he did? Also, is there a danger that abusive persons might use today’s Gospel to justify abusive behavior? So why does Jesus display his anger the way he did? I don’t have a clear answer. I read many commentaries on this Gospel but none of them spoke to this question.

We might say that Jesus wanted the people to never forget the point he was trying to make. After all, if Jesus had merely told the money-changers, “Lads, I think you shouldn’t be taking advantage of the poor outside God’s Temple,” I doubt that they would have gotten the point. They would have simply blown away his remark as one of a young fanatic. But the way Jesus expressed his outrage would be remembered for a long time, especially by his disciples.

Also, the Bible has other examples of very unusual actions by the great men of God. They did something most unusual to get the people’s attention, for example, the ’loincloth incident’ (Jer 13:1-11) and the ’eating of the scroll’ (Ezekiel (2:1-10).) Both incidents, like the one in today’s Gospel, are very dramatic ways of getting the people’s attention. If we read the Gospel, we will find Jesus angry numerous times, especially with the Pharisees, but he never displayed his anger in such dramatic or violent way. And neither should we.

‘Righteous Anger’ and ‘Unrighteous Anger’

Righteous anger is the anger we should feel in the face of a great wrong or injustice done to us or others. Dr. Martin Luther King and his co-workers and Nelson Mandela had righteous anger about racial prejudice. Many people in our church had a sense of righteous anger towards bishops for the way they handled the sex abuse scandals. Many are still angry.

Dealing with Anger

The following is taken from my article on Dealing with Anger. Scroll down to Miscellaneous

Psychologists tell us that anger is the emotion we most often feel—with sadness coming in as a distant second. This will surprise most of us because we are such experts at repressing our anger. Learning to deal with our anger in a constructive way is one of the most important life skills that we can learn and teach our children. This article has lots of concrete information about anger, an emotion around which there is much misunderstanding. It also has several concrete suggestions on how to deal constructively with one’s anger.

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