Third Sunday in Lent
Exodus 3, 1-8. 13-15; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 10, 1-6. 10-12; St. Luke 13, 1-9
Few years ago when Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:
“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance.
We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good, but that is exactly what we have done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute Truth of Your Word and call it Pluralism.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have killed the elders and the sick and called it euthanasia.
We have defended the criminals and called it human rights.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
We have even changed the sense and the meaning of the most fundamental words like marriage, freedom, tolerance, good and evil and we are surprised that nothing is going properly.
Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will and to openly ask these things in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!”
The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest accusing him of religious fundamentalism and fanaticism.
And the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel coming like refrain: "I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!"
When Jesus spoke about the events of His day, He said that in all these situations the people who died were not being punished by God. They, like all of us, suffered from the effects of evil and death in the world. What happened was horrible. Death is horrible. And death always comes much sooner than it is expected. Our time is limited. We must make the best use of it that we can. The reading goes on to present the parable of the fig tree which is going to be cut down if it doesn't produce fruit. In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, "If you think you are standing, watch out lest you fall down."
These are not pleasant messages. We come to Church seeking union with God, and we pray for our needs. We hope to leave with good feelings. All of us like a warm, fuzzy feeling within ourselves. But religion is a lot more than warm fuzzies. Religion is being tied to a God who said "Follow me," and then was crucified. Nothing warm and fuzzy about that. This Sunday we are warned, "I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!" There is nothing warm or fuzzy about that either, but a deep reality is being invoked.
Jesus says, "If the fig tree does not bear fruit after one more year, cut it down." God wants us to repent, but time can run out.
Since the beginning of Lent the readings for the daily Masses have pleaded with us to turn away from sin. We heard the prophet Isaiah (55:7) say: "turn from your sinful ways." From the prophet Ezekiel (18:21), "you wicked man, turn away from all your sins." The prophet Daniel (9:5) tells us, stop rebelling against God's commandments. We're right in the middle of Lent. Over and over again, the prophets plead with us, stop sinning.
Why does the Church pick out from the Bible so many passages about sin? Are we still so sinful? Well …………………., yes, we still sin.
Just the briefest reading of newspapers will list a whole litany of sins people commit. High on the list would be sins against the Fifth and Sixth Commandments.
Sometimes we're shocked by the statistics. Children having children. Half of couples getting married first live together before married. Abortion used as birth control. In one city, a news broadcast reported that half of the babies born each year are born out of wedlock. More shocking, fifty percent of all pregnancies end in abortion.
On the other hand, these same prophets tell us to keep God's commandments and God will raise us on high (Deuteronomy 26:19). The prophet Isaiah (55:6) and the prophet Daniel (9:9) remind us, if we "seek the Lord," God is full of compassion, ready to forgive.
Pope John Paul II – in the book “Crossing the threshold of hope” writes:
“… convincing the world of the existence of sin is not the same as condemning it for sinning.”God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Convincing the world of sin means creating the conditions for its salvation. Awareness of our own sinfulness, including that which is inherited, is the first condition for salvation; the next is the confession of this sin before God, who desires only to receive this confession so that He can save man.”
This evening we begin the Lenten mission, on Friday we will have Lenten Penitential Celebration. What a superb chance for Reconciliation with God, with neighbor and with yourself?