THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT 2022
Exodus 3:1-8,13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12; Luke 13:1-9
Shalom brothers and sisters in Christ,
In this third Sunday of Lent, the central theme of the readings is the kindness, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and the love of God. These describe the essence of God which if put together means loving-kindness that is unconditional or agape. God reveals His divine essence to Moses by revealing His divine Name as ‘I Am who I Am’. The meaning is given later at Sinai when God passes before Moses, he called upon Him, the Ruler, the Lord God, merciful and lenient, patient, and full of compassion and also truthful, who preserves mercy a thousand-fold. The response for the psalm repeats the phrase: “The Lord is compassion and love”. The whole responsorial reminds us of the essential nature of God that of being loving, merciful, kind, and compassionate.
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we must learn a lesson from the ancestors of faith who experienced God’s merciful action in the Exodus but in spite of God’s guidance and cares for them, most failed to please God and their corpses littered the desert. This is a warning to all of us that though God is loving, forgiving, merciful and compassionate, and there is no limit to how many times He forgives us if we turn to Him in true repentance, but being mortal, there is a limit to our life as we can die anytime. Therefore, we must not fall on the last day of our life.
This warning was repeated by Jesus in the Gospel reading. The events mentioned in the earlier part of the reading where Pilate slaughtered the Galilean worshippers and the collapse of the tower of Siloam killing eighteen of them, serve as useful examples of unexpected death and so of the need to be prepared. Jesus said, unless we repent, we will all perish. Therefore, we should not procrastinate in our repentance and transformation of our sinful nature to the righteous nature of God through Christ Jesus otherwise, we will be caught off guard. Jesus emphasizes the fact that God does not cause terrible things to happen as a result of the sinfulness of individuals as God does not seek to punish evil doers in this lifetime, but desires that all repent and turn back. The ultimate punishment after death will be worse than the fate experienced by those who went through the tragic events which Jesus reported earlier.
The second part of the Gospel is a parable which proclaims God’s mercy. Jesus desires to give another opportunity to sinners. Jesus stresses that the merciful and compassionate God is willing to provide sinners other occasions or ways to leave their sinful life and follow Him. He can be likened to the gardener who begs for one more year of hard work to do all He can to cultivate growth. He is willing to dig round the tree and to fertilize the ground with His very being to give nutrients to the unproductive trees so that it will produce fruit but if it doesn’t then it will be cut down. This reminds us that if we don’t consume the nutrients (spiritual food) being the Words of God and the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, once we died sinful and unreconciled with God, there is no more chance for us, and we will be chopped off like the unproductive fig tree. The significant of Jesus digging round the tree is to find ways to get our attention to Him. Maybe through tragedy, discomfort, beauty of nature, witnessing, miracles, apparition of Mother Mary and many more.
God always gives us another chance. Do we notice this, appreciate His goodness to us, or do we take God for granted? How blessed we are by this Forgiving God, that we are still alive today but as St. Paul told us, we should not think that we are safe but must be careful not to fall. God can call us anytime.
The only proper response to all that God has done for us is repentance and faith. “Repent, and believe in the gospel” is precisely what Jesus calls for from the beginning of His ministry. Repentance and faith go together. It is a double-action response. But repentance is not just being sorry for sin because of adverse consequences. It is also not dependent on feelings. True repentance is metanoia (change of heart), a change of mind, a change in direction. Repentance is turning away from sin and evil and surrendering to Jesus as Lord of our life. And if Jesus is Lord, there is no room for being lukewarm. Authentic repentance requires honesty, to admit that a sin is a sin, and in humility, to admit that we are weak, and we need help. But true repentance requires faith in God. Faith is not a feeling or wishful thinking or a blind leap. Faith is the realization of what is hoped for, and evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1 NABRE) It is man’s response to God. It is belief in the gospel, a personal act and decision. Most of all, faith is a pure gift from God. The consequence of repentance and faith is a promise of salvation from sin and death, and at a personal level, freedom from fear of death. Jesus sounded the call to repentance and faith two thousand years ago. It is the same call to us today. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us have complete faith in God and say, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
During this remainder of Lent, let our hearts be changed, renewed, and be set on God. Let us build an intimate relationship with Him and trust in His love and mercy and above all, let us thank God for the forgiveness and blessings given to us each day.
Have a blessed Lent.
Richard Jomiji Kinsil
St. Michael’s Parish Penampang