3rd SUNDAY LENT 2010 C
Jesus uses the current experiences of the worst possible human tragedies in order to reveal the possibility of even a greater spiritual tragedy. In the ancient world people thought that any disaster was surely because the victims had sinned and were being punished by God. And we hear Jesus say, “Unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” What is the logic here? Is Jesus teaching that God is a policeman hiding in the bushes with his radar gun? It seems you don’t have to murder people in order to get punished. Certainly Jesus is warning us that we must turn to God to be saved from our condition of spiritual death or we will perish. What do you think of punishment or rewards? Tonight (tomorrow night) in my reflection topic, we will see how prevalent we continue to speak about punishment and rewards in our religious language.
Why does Jesus appear so harsh? As we experience Lent which is a special time of focus on repentance in the Church, can we ignore this challenge of the Lord? These days we might prepare well for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Tuesday Evening in our Parish Retreat, we are given the opportunity to unburden ourselves.
The second part of the Gospel contains the Parable of the Fig Tree. In this parable God is clearly the master who shows himself to be prepared to chop down the unfruitful tree. The worker in the vineyard is obviously meant to be Christ who asks the master to wait one more year before getting rid of the tree. Ordinarily, fig trees produce fruit within three years of being planted. If it had not borne any figs by that time, the tree was dug up and another was planted in its place. Jesus is asking the Father to allow the fig tree, which represents Israel, one more chance to become fruitful. The main point of the parable is the sense of urgency surrounding Jesus’ mission. Time was short, and people had to heed his call to repentance.
Paul, in today’s second reading from his Corinthian correspondence, invites readers to learn from the mistakes of the past so as not to repeat them. Neither the old Israelnor the new dare presume upon a false sense of security. “If you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.”
Each of the sacred texts for today invites us to stand in our own truth before God, with our hands at our side and with no fingers pointing at anyone else. Jesus is telling the crowds that instead of concluding the guilt of the victims, they should have looked instead to themselves and considered the consequences of their own guilt. Before the truth of God and in the clarity of God’s word, we learn to realize our need to admit our sins and yearn for greater integrity.
In the first reading we see Moses standing in the presence of God. Moses was struck with overwhelming awe and fear. He wanted to approach, but knew himself to be unworthy. He wanted to run, but his feet were riveted to the ground. He was terrified in the presence of Someone so wholly other; Holy, Holy, Holy! There, in that frightening space between staying and fleeing. Godcalls him by an extraordinary sight. A bush that is burning but not being consumed. An image trying to capture awe.
Moses is asked to take his shoes off, for he is standing on holy ground. Our shoes prevent us from experiencing in an intimate way the sacredness of life. Our shoes are anything that we place between ourselves and the gift of creation. Anything that destroys communion. That which perhaps protects us against the sharp stones and thistles, but can also make us insensitive to the fertile soil. Our shoes could be a symbol of our material things that dull our compassion. When we experience no pain or discomfort; no need, no hunger, then we can easily walk over others and not even notice their pain. We have become insulated against others.
We are a part of a society that drains off a disproportionate amount of the earth’s energy resources. Being part of a society that consumes at a scandalous rate. Yet we are being insulated from the destitute in our world. Our government has filleted Kairos and Development and Peace to the bone.
Lent is a time to take off our shoes. To do the unusual. To walk barefoot. To feel the stones and thistles. To fast. To take away the feeling of self-satisfaction and contentment. To experience the hunger that millions experience everyday. This entails giving up more than desserts. At least full days of fasting for those who are healthy.
We need to take away the satisfaction of having what we want. We need to fast from other material things than food. I invite you to give generously to the poor through “SHARE LENT” collection that takes place in a few weeks. This is the most important collection of the year. Perhaps you might think of something that you as an individual or as a family were intending to buy. Something you might want but really do not need. Perhaps a new Blackberry, or High Definition TV. I’m asking you to give that money instead to Development and Peace through “Share Lent”. I am not asking you to postpone buying it until the summer, but to give up the desire for it and do with less.
Chief Sitting Bull said; “We own nothing, of what we have we must share”
St. Ambrose said, “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have allocated to yourselves.” We are called to give to the poor not just because they have a hand-out but rather we must give because it is a spiritual need for you and I to give. It shouts out the truth that my ultimate security in life is not what I have but what I give away.
PRAYER: Henri Nouwen says, “The treasure of communion is hidden in the ground on which we stand. That is our holy ground. It is the interior place where we can hear the gentle, soft voice calling us by our name – (Moses, Moses) a name much more intimate than the name our parents gave us, the name that expresses our true identity. (The Beloved) Our driven lives, surrounded by so many loud, demanding voices, make it diffcult to hear the small voice that reminds us of our real name. Nonetheless, that voice is always there and when we hear it, we know deep down that we belong to the One who is love and who has called us from all eternity.”
This is holy ground, we're standing on holy ground,
For the Lord is present and where God is is holy,
This is holy ground, we're standing on holy ground,
For the Lord is present and where God is is holy