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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Third Sunday of Lent (C)

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.
Versicle before the Gospel (Mt 4:17): Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Gospel text (Lk 13:1-9): 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.’”

“If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

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

Today, the third Sunday of Lent, the Gospel 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 most employed themes in the Gospel. Remember that, before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, Saint John the Baptist announced his mission to call others to conversion “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And, immediately after, Jesus' preaching can be summarized with these words: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Yet, today's reading has some characteristics of its own that call for faithful attention and an adequate response. It can be said that the first part of the reading, with the two historic references (the Galileans' blood shed by Pilate and the crumbling of the Siloam tower), contains a threat. It is impossible to describe it any other way! We deplore the two misfortunes —regretted and cried at that time— but Jesus Christ, most seriously, says to all of us: “—If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!.”

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 one to come: the eternal doom. These two stories of death in our text are but examples of eternal 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 worries us, the second part of the reading should comfort 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 changed their ways by God's grace and inspire us to change too. Though late in his life, saint Ignatius of Loyola is one example.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “A secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints.” (Saint Josemaría)

  • “It must be acknowledged that this same economic growth has been weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems. This presents us with choices that cannot be postponed concerning nothing less than the destiny of man, who, moreover, cannot prescind from his nature.” (Benedict XVI)

  • “The inversion of means and ends, which results in giving the value of ultimate end to what is only a means for attaining it, or in viewing persons as mere means to that end, engenders unjust structures (…). It is necessary, then, to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the human person and to the permanent need for his inner conversion, so as to obtain social changes that will really serve him.” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 1887-1888)