3rd. Sunday of Lent: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Lent: Time To Convert.”
In Lent, more than any other period of the year, God is inviting us with insistence, to change our ways that can only lead to death and ruin.
The first reading tells us about Moses, impulsive, but sincere, who changed his life radically. When called by God, he gave up his little plans and accepted the Lord’s proposal to return to Egypt and liberate his people.
The second reading tells us that the journey to freedom is long and difficult. The children of Israel, once in the desert, gave in to so many temptations. This is also what happens to us Christians, even when we choose to follow the ways of the Lord.
In the Gospel, Jesus is showing us how we can see in all events the Lord’s call to choose his ways; and since the time is short, we should make our choice immediately and start living fruitful lives.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15.
In the first reading, we are given a glorious picture of Moses encountering God in the burning bush and receiving his mission to be God’s instrument of liberation for the oppressed people of God. Moses is in exile, having killed an Egyptian who was striking a Hebrew (Ex. 2:11-12). While looking after the sheep of his father-in-law, who was not a worshipper of the true God, Moses is first enticed by the remarkable phenomenon of the bush, and the fact that it was not consumed by the fire.
The first lesson Moses has to learn is the need for obedience to God. ‘Moses, Moses’, comes the cry, to which he responds in a manner which we all need to imitate: ‘Here I am’ which implied, ‘I am ready to do whatever you want’. The second lesson is about the holiness of God; and Moses is instructed to give a symbolic expression to that holiness by taking off his sandals. Moses is challenged by God to deliver the Hebrew people from their slavery in Egypt. Moses is not sure that he is up to such a task, so he questions God: ‘If the Israelites ask me, “What is ‘Your Name’? What shall I say to them?” God replied, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you.” Moses accepted the challenge and brought about, through the guidance of God, the deliverance of the Israelites. This liberating experience, called the Exodus, is still at the centre of the Jewish faith. We also believe it, but for us Christians, deliverance occurs in a final way, through Jesus leading us into a blissful eternity.
That ‘bush’ is burning somewhere in your life today: Off in quiet place, at a distance, some remarkable encounter with God’s messenger is waiting for you to take notice. You can laugh at it like Sarah, or give it hospitality like Abraham. You can wrestle with it like Jacob, accompany it like Tobias, accept its help like Hagar, or follow it like Peter. You can doubt it like Zechariah or surrender to it like Mary. But whatever you decide to do with a ‘manifestation’ of God’s presence, you first have to acknowledge it. Regrettably, most of us walk right by without even seeing it. We are blinded by our own pride and self-indulgences.
Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11.
The description in the Psalm of the kindness and mercy of God, quoting Exodus, reminds us that God did fulfill his promise to Moses to deliver his people from oppression and encourages a positive response to the appeal for repentance in the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12.
Paul sees that the Corinthians are indulging in a very dangerous illusion. To correct this false view he brings the example of the people of Israel to their attention. He says: see, all the children of Israel believed Moses and followed him; they crossed the Red Sea and were under the “cloud” of God. They ate manna and drank water from the rock; and, yet, because of their infidelity, none of them entered the ‘Promised Land’.
The same thing can happen to Christians too. We should keep in mind that God’s favours do not work automatically or perform salvation by magic. When Moses had his remarkable conversion at the burning bush, he became attentive to God’s voice ever after. He had his ear to the ground, his eyes on the sky, his heart open to God’s will. Moses became the central figure in the entire Hebrew story because his spiritual posture was close to perfect. But those who followed Moses were bent double. They walked among the same miracles as Moses for forty years, and never seemed to understand. They never fully accepted the idea that God was on their side. They had crooked hearts, tottering faith, and wavering loyalty.
We, who can enjoy the miracles of the sacraments every day; cannot also afford to be too complacent or have a weak and ailing faith. If we are not in line with the mysteries we share, we may be closer to a fall than we think. It is not enough to have believed in Christ (new Moses), to have been baptized (the crossing of the Red Sea), to have received the Spirit (protected by the cloud), to have eaten the Eucharist (the bread and wine correspond to the manna and the water in the desert), one must lead a consistent life of faith and love, otherwise we, too, can go astray, like the children of Israel in the desert.
Turning away from sin and a turning to the Lord was always part of a message of the prophets of Israel. The Gospel of Luke continues this call to repentance. It began with the Baptist preaching repentance.
Jesus defined his own mission as one of bringing sinners to repentance. Long ago, Nineveh had repented at the preaching of Jonah, but Corazin and Bethsaida had refused to respond to Jesus.
Peter on Pentecost Day continued this message of repentance. The effects of repentance are great joy and celebration in heaven. When informed of the Galilaeans killed by Pilate in Jerusalem, Jesus the Galilean does not threaten anger or retribution. He, however, denies that those people had died because they were sinners.
Their fate was a ‘symbol’ of what was ultimately in store for those who rejected the mercy of God. Jesus was reinforcing his message in his proclamation of the Kingdom. Jesus reminds his hearers of those in Jerusalem, who perished when a tower collapsed. Their fate of death through an accident causes Jesus yet again to call for repentance before it is too late.
In his parable of the ‘Fig Tree’, Jesus speaks of a third way of dying. Here was a tree useless to its owner. Like the vineyard in Isaiah to which God compared his fruitless people, it never produced fruit. Such a tree resembles a person who does nothing with life, like the attendant asleep when the master comes or the unproductive servant who spends time in debauchery and drunkenness.
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who take more out than they put in, and those who put in more than they take out. Jesus often reminds us that we will be judged according to the opportunities we have had. So it is fair, for us to ask ourselves, “Of what use have I been in this world? What have I contributed to ‘love’ and ‘life’?” We are expected to leave the world a little better than we found it. If we fail, the parable tells, like the disappointing tree, we can always count on God giving us a second chance. However, the day might come when all will be lost, not because God shut us out, but because we shut ourselves out.
The owner of the tree is merciful; he will allow the tree a year of grace and permit his gardener to help its growth with manure. Jesus uses these three stories to bring the sinner (and us) to repentance.
God gives us time to mature and to lead fruitful lives. We have all benefitted from the patience of God. This patience is supposed to lead us to bear specific fruit in our lives. God’s patience, love and mercy are the opportunities for our salvation through repentance.
When misfortune overtakes us, we are not alone; God is with us, offering us grace and strength. We are not supposed to be passive. Whatever may happen, let us try to pass on things better than we found them, and leave the rest to a compassionate and loving God.
Lent is such a time when God gives us an opportunity to clear out whatever causes sin and turn more explicitly towards God, who is patient and ready to give us a second chance. In God’s time a fruitless past need not produce a barren future.
Today’s readings tell us that the God to whom we return (the root meaning of the word ‘repentance’) is the God of our past, just as he was the God of Abraham and a God who constantly enters our lives with liberating compassion. Repentance, or turning away from one path to another, is not so much finding God but being found by God. Jesus tells a parable of a God who is patient and ready to give a second chance.
Are the fruits of the Spirit apparent in my life? Are there any particular weeds or thorns that I must eradicate this Lent? Are there any virtues or fruits I ought to nurture with God’s grace? Digging up around our roots is a good picture of an ‘Examination of Conscience’. Now is the time for pruning and nurturing of our personal ‘Fig Tree’ through the ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’.
God is pretty unpredictable, and who knows what may blossom in a few weeks?
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 3rd Sunday of Lent Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … Do we feel the need to be closer to God, to be more obedient and to always do his will? This will require putting God first in our lives above all else and to be attentive to his calling. When God does call us we need to reply like Moses did, “Here I am Lord, I am ready to do whatever you want”.
Mon. … We, too, like Moses need to learn about the holiness of God. ‘God’s Word’ is our ‘Burning Bush’, which can never be extinguished. Its’ penetrating Light shines deep into our hearts and clears the darkness of sin and pride and its’ Truth is all the wisdom we will ever need. From now on let us give a symbolic expression to God’s holiness by opening up our hearts to his Word each and every day.
Tues. … God’s manifestation in our lives can take on many forms. We need to be alert to the signs of his presence, particularly before the Blessed Sacrament. Where there is peace and gratuitous love God is always present. In the celebration of the Mass during Lent let us openly acknowledge his presence. Let us offer up ourselves as a living sacrifices and openly declare our willingness to become ‘one’ with his will by professing, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”.
Wed. … How many of us often take our faith for granted? Do we perhaps assume that because of our baptism, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and having shared in the Lord’s Table we will be saved? Paul advises us that we, too, can go astray despite having received all these blessings and graces. The children of Israel in the desert were constantly in the presence of God but because of their infidelity did not enter the ‘Promised Land’. We must therefore strive to lead a consistent life of faith and ‘love’ and to always do God’s will.
Thur. … Turning away from sin and be faithful to God’s “Word’ was always part of the message of the prophets of Israel. This is the same message Christians are given again at the start of Lent. God in his patience, mercy and love is calling for all of us to repent. Will we accept or reject him?
Frid. … Jesus reminds us that we will be judged according to the opportunities, i.e. the gifts and talents, we have had. God is not in the business of punishment. The fact is that sin carries its own built-in punishment. The ways of sin are destructive. This happens when we break our harmony and union with God, by disrupting our relationships with others and by fostering anger, distrust, hatred, bitterness and prejudice. This alienates us from our true potential and dignity. There is no need for God to punish us because sin bears the seeds of self-destruction and unhappiness.
Sat. … Lent is a time when we are called by God and are given an opportunity to repent and turn to our Lord who is loving, merciful and patient. Will God’s patience be rewarded this Lent as a result of us producing ‘Fruit’ and acts of ‘Gratuitous Love’ in our lives? Let us reflect on the benefits and contributions that we can bring to our communities. This Lent, will we be productive or unproductive servants? Or will we be like the ‘Fig Tree’ which bore no fruit?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, grant us the wisdom to understand that a loving relationship with You always bears fruit. If there is no fruit, we are at fault. We have let down our side of the relationship. Help us not to become imprisoned by pride, selfishness, sin and hatred. Teach us to realize that when we are faithful to our relationship with You, we are liberated, and able to discover new, true riches and bear new fruit.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.