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Liturgical day: Sunday 3rd (C) of Lent

1st Reading (Exod 3:1-8a.13-15): Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed. So Moses decided, «I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned».

When the Lord saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, «Moses! Moses!». He answered, «Here I am». God said, «Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers», he continued, «the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob». Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. But the Lord said, «I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey».

Moses said to God, «But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?». God replied, «I am who am». Then he added, «This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I am sent me to you». God spoke further to Moses, «Thus shall you say to the Israelites: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations’».
Responsorial Psalm: 102
R/. The Lord is kind and merciful.
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.

He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills, He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.

The Lord secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed. He has made known his ways to Moses, and his deeds to the children of Israel.

Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
2nd Reading (1Cor 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.
Verscicle before the Gospel (Mt 4:17): Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Gospel text (Lk 13,1-9): One day some persons told Jesus what had occurred in the Temple: Pilate had Galileans killed and their blood mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus replied, «Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this? I tell you: no. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did. And those eighteen persons in Siloah who were crushed when the tower fell, do you think they were more guilty than all the others in Jeru­salem? I tell you: no. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did».

And Jesus continued with this story, «A man had a fig tree growing in his vine­yard and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the gar­de­n­er: ‘Look here, for three years now I have been looking for figs on this tree and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it use up the ground?’. The gardener replied: ‘Leave it one more year, so that I may dig around it and add some ferti­lizer; and perhaps it will bear fruit from now on. But if it doesn't, you can cut it down’».

«Unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did»

+ Cardinal Jorge MEJÍA Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church
(Città del Vaticano, Vatican)

Today, third Sunday of Lent, the evangelical reading contains Jesus' call to penance and conversion. Or, rather, a demand for a change in our lives.

In Evangelical language “To convert to” means to change not only our innermost attitude but our exterior style, too. It is one of the mostly employed parables in the Gospel. Remember that, before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, saint John the Baptist summarized his advocation with the same saying: «Preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins» (Mk 1:4). And, immediately after, Jesus preaching can be summarized with these words: «Repent and believe the good news!» (Mk 1:15).

Yet, today's reading has some characteristics of its own that request faithful attention and an adequate answer. It can be said that the first part, with the two historic references (the Galileans' blood shed by Pilate and the crumbling of the Siloh tower), contains a threat. It is impossible to call it any other way!: we deplore the two misfortunes —regretted and moaned at the time— but Jesus Christ, most seriously, says to all of us: —«Unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did» (Lk 13:5).

This shows us two basic things. In the first place, the total seriousness of the Christian commitment. And, secondly, if we do not respect it, as God commands, the possibility of our death, not in this world but, much worse, in the other one: the eternal doom. These two deaths in our text are nothing but examples of another death, that cannot be compared to the first one.

Each one of us will eventually find out how to face this demand of personal change. Nobody is excluded. But if this may worry us, the second part should confort us, instead. The “gardener”, who is Jesus, begs the owner of the vineyard, his Father, to wait another year. And, in the meanwhile, He will do whatever possible (and the impossible, by dying for us) so that the vineyard may bear fruit. That is, we change our ways! This is the message of Lent. Let us, therefore, take it seriously. The saints —though late in his life saint Ignatious of Loyola is one instance— do change by God's grace while inciting us to change too.