The Third Sunday of Lent
March 24, 2019 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
Sunday Reading Meditations
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our life becomes fruitful through encountering God. When we come to realize God’s real presence in our lives, we repent.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that calamities are not necessarily due to the sins of the victims. He mentions the Roman authorities’ massacre of the Galileans while they were at prayer and a tower in Jerusalem that collapsed, killing eighteen people. Christ says: “I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Lk 13:5). Jesus is warning us that we have to repent right away.
Then Jesus tells the Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree: “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future” (Lk 13:8). God is patient and, as Pope Benedict XVI said repeatedly, “waits for our conversion.” When is the right time for repentance? Right now!
“Bear fruit.” We are called to be fruitful, as the Creator has desired from the beginning: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Repentance makes our lives fruitful.
What should we repent? We find an answer in today’s second reading. Saint Paul tells us not to “desire evil things” and not to “grumble” as the Israelites did in the desert. We need to purify our desires. We need to desire great things. Holy desire in our hearts saves us from evil. We also need to be thankful to God. It is so easy to complain about everything and forget about God’s many gifts.
An encounter with God is always a surprise. “He [Moses] was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed” (Ex 3:2). God takes the initiative, drawing us to him with an unforeseen event. It could be a gaze, a friendship, a word, a whispering in the wind or a light in the sky. “Moses! Moses!” (Ex 3:4). Our God calls us by name. He knows us and loves us. We are special. We are unique. We are his children. God bestows his grace upon us in our encounter with him. We experience an immense joy, a joy that the world ignores, a joy that never ends. There is great joy in the encounter, an unprecedented joy, a joy that makes us sing the words of today’s psalm: “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps 103:1‒2). However, God wants to grant us even more joy. “Remove the sandals from your feet” (Ex 3:5). We need to purify ourselves. We need to repent. We need to open ourselves to God’s presence. In our encounter with God, we discover how much he loves the world: “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt […] I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians” (Ex 3:7‒8). “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (Ex 3:6). It is our mission to share the experience of the liberation that comes from our encounter with God, to bear witness to our faith.
“I am who I am.” God is real. We need to acknowledge his presence. It is easy to reduce God to an abstraction or think about him as being detached from the world. Our life profoundly changes when we start recognizing his mysterious presence in all things. Everyone and everything comes from God’s hands.
Let us pray. O Lord, may our Lenten season be fruitful. Renew our encounter with you in our daily lives. Amen.