Third Sunday of Lent Ex 3:1-8, 13-15; 1 Cor.10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9
“Unless you repent, you will likewise perish” Lk.
As we approach the midpoint of our Lenten journey in this Extraordinary Year of Mercy, we may want to pause and reflect on how we are living out Pope Francis’ invitation to adopt fully God’s own approach, which is that of mercy.
Today’s scriptures can help us do that. They provide an opportunity to take a new look at how well our lives reflect the compassion of Christ.
The first reading from Exodus presents us with Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush. This story is a good reminder that we often meet God in the most unlikely places. After asking by what name he is to identify God, Moses hears, “I Am Who Am…the God of your ancestors”. But as Moses finds out, our God is more than that. Our God is a God of the present.
To demonstrate this, God tells Moses that the suffering of the Israelites has not gone unnoticed. Aware of what they have endured in Egypt, God promises to intervene in their lives right now. “I have witnessed the affliction of my people . . I have heard their cry... I have come to rescue them,” are the compassionate words Moses hears from the burning bush.
In the second reading, Paul offers the experience of their ancestors in the desert as a warning to the Corinthians. The Israelites were rescued by God but they were not satisfied with what was offered to them. They believed they deserved better and so they grumbled, not at the Egyptians this time, but at God. As a result, they suffered for it. Paul wants his hearers to learn a lesson from this and be alert to their own potential for downfall. We need to be alert for this as well.
When have you encountered the compassion of God? Has there been a time when God has rescued you from a difficult situation? If so, how did you react to God’s intervention in your life? Did you respond gratefully or by grumbling? Did you accept God’s compassion for you by reaching out to others in need?
In the gospel, Jesus answers those who believe that human suffering is a result of sin. Suffering is not, as the gossipers in the crowd believe, a punishment from God for misdeeds, Jesus tells them. Then he warns them that rather than making assumptions about how God works, they would do well to reform their lives instead and do it now.
To reinforce his message, Jesus offers his listeners the parable of the unproductive fig tree. For most of its life it had been a taker rather than a doer, leaching the soil while producing no fruit. As a result, it is scheduled to be cut down. Fortunately for the tree, the vinedresser intervenes and asks to be allowed to cultivate it and give it a second chance
At times we can be like the unproductive fig tree, taking what we want from life but giving nothing back. Fortunately for us, God is patient with us and will always offer us another chance, if we are willing to take it.
Lent is a time for second chances. It provides an opportunity to reflect on our relationship with God, review our lives, root out our grumbling and see where we might be less than productive in our spiritual growth. Lent gives us permission to begin again.
Will you take some time during the remaining weeks of Lent to reflect on what needs to be cultivated or pruned in your life? What changes might you need to make? What habits need to be cut back so you can bear the fruit God intended?
I invite you in this Year of Mercy to incorporate the gospel message of love and compassion into your Lenten practices. You can do this by praying for a more just and peace-filled world; by fasting from attitudes, words and behaviors that deprive others of their human dignity; and by generously sharing yourself and your resources. Then you will be able to see the needs of others through God’s eyes so that God may bring hope and healing to them through you.
Sister Michaela Connolly, OP