Third Sunday in Lent [C] — Reflection
Ex 3:1-8,13-15 ― 1 Cor 10:1-6,10-12 ― Luke 13:1-9
March 7, 2010
Scripture readings from Holy Mass: CLICK HERE
Verse for Recollection throughout the Day:
“‘Sir, leave it for this year also, /
and I shall cultivate the ground around it /
and fertilize it….’”
For the Christian, penance should be a part of one’s daily life: for 365 days a year, not just forty. Jesus is speaking to each of you as he says, “if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” The end Jesus speaks of is a violent death: not the suffering of martyrdom, but the suffering of hell. Like the gardener in the gospel, God has given us another year in which to make penance our own, and to begin to see this penance as the discipline—the hoeing and the pruning, as it were—that allows the fruits of the Holy Spirit to grow in our souls.
Jesus is asking each of us to begin to reform our lives. Of course it is a good practice to give up for forty days something that we like, in order to grow spiritually. However, we must also consider ourselves to be like children who each year are given more chores and more responsibilities around the home: each new Church year should see each of us take more spiritual responsibility upon ourselves. The season of Lent is merely the best time of the year to introduce these responsibilities, not a time of doing something that we have every intention of stopping once Easter gets here.
Today’s second reading draws our attention back to the Old Testament, back to the desert that stretched between Egypt and Israel, between the slavery of the Pharaoh and the freedom of the Lord. Saint Paul, in preaching to the Church in Corinth, is reminding the Corinthians that they, like the Israelites of old, have been freed from slavery. He is reminding them that they, too, are wandering through a desert. He is reminding them that they, too, are seeking a place where they can rest in freedom.
As Saint Paul spoke to the Corinthians, God the Holy Spirit inspired his words. This is the same God the Holy Spirit who is guiding us through the desert of Lent. This is the same God the Holy Spirit who is guiding us through the often difficult journey of our lives, and who brings into our lives a freedom that bars cannot confine, and that death cannot destroy.
God the Holy Spirit led all the Israelites of old under the same pillar of cloud. God the Father fed all the Israelites of old with the same spiritual food, and quenched their thirst with the same spiritual drink. Nonetheless, though God guided all the Israelites, God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert. God was not pleased with most of them because they were never satisfied with what they had, and because most of them failed ever to express gratitude to God for what He had done for them, as they journeyed through their desert.
Saint Paul warns the Corinthians: whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall. We think we stand upright if we believe that we can journey through a desert without a guide. We seek the Holy Spirit as guide and comforter, that through all our failings we will strive to rise again.
The Church Fathers—using an older translation of Scripture—use a more graphic word in the last phrase of Luke 13:8 (“…and fertilize it.”). Have you ever thought of how God is “fertilizing” your spiritual life, and why?
...and on the lighter side...
Top Ten reasons why I never go to Confession
Top Ten reasons why I never bathe:
1. I was forced to bathe as a child.
2. People who bathe are hypocrites - they think they are cleaner than everybody else.
3. There are so many different kinds of soap, I can't decide which one is best.
4. I used to bathe, but I got bored and stopped.
5. I bathe only on special occasions, like Christmas and Easter.
6. None of my friends bathe.
7. I'll start to bathe when I get older and dirtier.
8. I can't spare the time.
9. The bathroom is never warm enough in winter or cool enough in summer.
10. People who make soap are only after your money.