March 24, 2019
Sun 4:30 pm
3rd Sun Ord Time “C”
Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9
The readings this Sunday remind us that life is a precious gift given to each of us. During the Season of Lent we are asked to take a close look at our lives to see how we are doing with this precious gift.
None of us knows how much time we are given here on this earth. In the Gospel we hear of two instances where people’s lives ended suddenly: (1) at the hands of another (Pilate) & (2) a freak accident (tower fell). In both instances the people died suddenly, unexpectedly. Jesus poses this question to His listeners, “Because this happened to them…Do you think that they were greater sinners than everyone else?” In other words, because people die unexpectedly are they punished because they are great sinners, worse than other people? Think of the tragedies of today: shootings, bombings and vehicles driving into people. Or natural disasters: hurricanes, tornados, fires, earthquakes. Are the people who perish in this way greater sinners than the rest of us? Jesus gives us the answer and a serious warning, “By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will perish as they did.” Jesus is speaking to His listeners (us). And He is talking about death but a spiritual death. He is saying that we are all sinners. And we are all going to die some day and then be judged. We all only have a limited time on this earth. Jesus is saying to examine our lives now, repent (change) before it is too late.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul also gives us a warning as he tells us of the Israelites who grumbled & complained in the desert, who turned their backs on God and who trusted in and worshiped other things rather than God. He said that “God was not pleased with them, for they were struck down in the desert…as an example for us so that we might not desire evil things as they did.” Paul said, “They have been written down as a warning for us.” Jesus warned us in the Gospel and St. Paul warned us in the 2nd reading to examine our lives and make the changes as necessary for the salvation of our souls before it is too late, because life is fragile…And in the last verse of the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” St. Paul is saying we all must be warned to examine our lives and make changes but he is saying especially those who think they are doing ok, those who think they have nothing to improve on, to those who think they are doing just fine. It is those who the warning is most urgent.
And now we turn to the last part of today’s Gospel passage where Jesus illustrates His warning to repent with the Parable of the Fig Tree. In this parable the fig tree was planted by the owner of the orchard (God the Father). He was not happy that the fig tree had not produced any fruit for over 3 years. He said, “Cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?” But the gardener (Jesus) said, “Sir, leave it for this year and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it, it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.” This is an illustration that yes God is patient but also just. It tells us that just like the fig tree God is patient with us but that we only have a limited amount of time to repent, to bear good fruit (good works of kindness and service).
So on this 3rd Sunday of Lent we must ask ourselves how do we compare to the fig tree? Are we bearing good fruit or are we not? Do we allow God to cultivate the ground around us and fertilize us by spending quality time with Him in prayer, in His Word, in the sacraments? After God, do we place as a priority others needs and concerns above our own? Do we put down the smart phones and other screens for a while to minister to others, to serve, to give, to share? *You see, the fig tree that God wanted to cut down in the parable wasn’t dying, it just wasn’t doing much of anything at all. Can this be said of our lives? Are we just existing? Are we just taking up soil? Just going through the motions? Or are we producing good fruit of patience, kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity & compassion?
Life is precious, it is a gift, but it is fragile. We are all given a limited time on this earth. God is merciful, God is patient, but He is just. It is an urgent message and warning to us that we use this gift of life, our time, our talents and our treasure to glorify God and to serve our neighbor…The Season of Lent is also a gift to us, it is a season of grace that God gives us to examine our lives, to make changes as necessary so that we will not be cut down but that we will flourish & bear fruit for the Kingdom…How are you doing with this precious gift of life?