Third Sunday of Lent
“If you don’t repent, you will all perish as they did.” This quote from Jesus in today’s Gospel is difficult to hear on a good day. When we see the tragedy of a pandemic or war, this quote is even more difficult. Is this punishment for not repenting? Is that why people in Ukraine or Afghanistan are being killed? Is that why so many have died during this pandemic? Is it divine retribution? It’s in the Gospel that not repenting causes death. Even in the imagery used, a tree that doesn’t produce fruit must be cut down. Is this what Jesus is saying?
Well, yes and no. In looking at the metaphor of the tree, I think of the plants I have on my living room windowsill. A few were dying just before Christmas. I could have just tossed them out and bought new plants. Instead, I cut them back to just above the soil. Not only that, but I repotted them in larger pots with additional soil and fertilizer. They are now growing back full of life.
Lent is the time of pruning for us. Without it, we might perish. Given the right circumstances, the cutting back of what may be dead in us, or what might be unfruitful in our lives, we too can grow strong. We might need a different set of nutrients, more light, or space to grow. We might need to cut back on areas that are taking up too much time and energy and shift those resources to other areas that are struggling to thrive. It is about balance.
God doesn’t cause perishing, especially not en masse through war or disease. Our actions, especially systemic sinfulness, can cause harm, like climate change, lack of disease prevention, or violence. Still, with God’s help, we are given the opportunity to change and empower ourselves and others to flourish. What areas in your life might need repenting, or pruning, in order to thrive?
Sr. Jenn Schaaf, OP