Sunday, March 7, 2010

On the Readings for the Third Sunday of Lent

We have been having discussions in my New Testament class on how St. Paul's readings in the Lectionary quite often are ignored in the Homily. Today was a perfect example and quite frankly rather frustrating. Here is my commentary and take on it. First and foremost I trust the wisdom of the Magesterium and Mother Church in her decisions on the readings. We are in the season of Lent. Repentance is the most prominent message of Lent, not God's love, not God's mercy, not the beautiful image of God. All of those are of course important aspects of God and are undeniable true, God is merciful, God does love us, the image of who God is, is a beautiful thing. But what matters during Lent is where are you and I are on this journey to the Cross. We all have baggage, we all are sinners, and in the Lenten season we are actively seeking to do something about it, through prayer, fasting, alms giving, Reconciliation, and contemplative spirituality. Here is my commentary on today's readings:
The 1st Reading From the Book of Exodus (3:1-8a,13-15) We see the Moses and the Burning Bush, God telling Moses He is going to rescue His people, and God telling Moses that he is "I am who am.”
The Second Reading from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 10:1-6, 10-12)

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
that our ancestors were all under the cloud
and all passed through the sea,
and all of them were baptized into Moses
in the cloud and in the sea.
All ate the same spiritual food,
and all drank the same spiritual drink,
for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them,
and the rock was the Christ.
Yet God was not pleased with most of them,
for they were struck down in the desert.

These things happened as examples for us,
so that we might not desire evil things, as they did.
Do not grumble as some of them did,
and suffered death by the destroyer.
These things happened to them as an example,
and they have been written down as a warning to us,
upon whom the end of the ages has come.
Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure
should take care not to fall.

Paul's Letter here refers back to Moses from the first reading how God had rescued them and "All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink,for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ." They had the Spirit of God and yet with it, they failed miserably while in the desert and God had to destroy them. Paul then warns us when he writes "Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall." Just because you have the Holy Spirit from the Crucified and Resurrected Christ do not think that you can't fall back into sin. This is an important message for Lent.

The Gospel is one of my favorites Luke 13:1-9 (I have been using the parable of the fig tree for many years)

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘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.
If not you can cut it down.’”

Jesus is not saying that "hey those people did not do anything bad to deserve what happened to them" or that his audience does not understand that the reason the Galileans or those 18 who died when the tower at Siloam fell on them was not there sinfulness. What He is saying is this "you think they are sinners and got what they deserved, well guess what? You guys are greater sinners than they are and you better repent!"

In the parable of the fig tree Jesus is not the gardener, Jesus is the owner of the orchard. As God is the owner of all of us, we are servants to Him. What Jesus is clearly saying here is: " no fruitfulness, no salvation." The gardener is the Church, our pastor, spiritual director, CCD teacher, mother, father or anyone who can aid in growing the faith, who can fertilize us with prayer and repentance, so we can be fruitful. You want more? How about from John's Gospel on the Vine and Branches that I just posted yesterday, This is Jesus talking:

"Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned."

The Gospel ties into Paul's message that you better not get comfortable lest you become sinful. Lent is about repentenace.

1 comment:

Maria said...

Penance and more penance. Great post. I love what Fr. Hardon SJ said re "without me you can do nothing". Hardon SJ says that in no way did Jesus means this in a metaphorical sense. He meant this, literally--without me you can do NOTHING.