3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C
Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-5, 6-7, 8, 11
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
February 28, 2016
“Some people told Jesus” about what Pilate was doing (mingling the blood of sacrifices). This leads to Jesus talking about suffering. Remember, in those days people believed that if you were suffering it was punishment for sin. Jesus tells them that the suffering they describe does not happen because the people were greater sinners than others.
However, neither does Jesus say that these people were not sinners in some way. He uses it as an opportunity to tell everyone to repent. If we do not repent we will perish. Sin has its consequences and if we do not repent the greatest consequence of our sins will be to spend eternity in Hell.
The good news is that when we repent, God forgives us and gives us another chance but what does it mean to repent?
I see at least three parts to “repentance.” First, we need to realize we have done something that is wrong. We need to be humble enough to realize we are not perfect and we sin.
Secondly, we need to be willing to admit our sins. This means going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess our sins. You can do this on Saturday afternoon. Next week, on March 9th, we will have our annual diocesan Day of Penance and Mercy from 12:30 – 7:30 p.m. or you can always make an appointment. God wants to forgive you but you have to ask.
The third part of “repentance” is a genuine desire to change, to undergo conversion. We need to become people of “mercy.” God has shown us “mercy” in forgiving our sins but this is not the only way God shows us mercy.
God also shows us mercy in hearing our cries and responding to our affliction just as God heard the cry of the Israelites in Egypt. God lead them out to “a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Our God is one who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” He pardons our sins, heals us, and crowns us with his kindness. Truly, “The Lord is kind and merciful.” Are we?
Often when we think about our sins, we think about what we have done wrong. This is good but it isn’t the whole picture. We also need to think about “sins of omission,” meaning the things we have failed to do.
Here we turn back to Jesus with the fig tree. The tree had borne no fruit for three years so the landowner wanted to cut it down. The tree was planted to bear fruit. So, if it isn’t fulfilling its purpose, get rid of it. It seems simple enough.
Do we bear any fruit? God did not create us to sit idly by. We have created to do good works, to do acts of mercy. In doing so, we bear good fruit.
We can do Corporal Works of Mercy to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty like God did for the Israelites in the desert. We can welcome the stranger as God has welcomed us as his people.
We can also do Spiritual Works of Mercy. If you aren’t so familiar with these, you are not alone. Before the Year of Mercy, I didn’t know much about them but I had to learn (see my presentations). Among the Spiritual Works of Mercy is the call to “comfort the sorrowful.” Don’t we seek God’s comfort in our own sorrow? Do we offer comfort to others?
The Spiritual Works of Mercy also include “admonishing the sinner.” How do we do this? Generally, it doesn’t normally take a lot of effort for us to notice the sins in other people but what do we do when we see their sins? Do we rush to judgment and criticize and then walk away or do we act in a way to help them become a better person.
We need to help them learn what our faith teaches. This is another Spiritual Work of Mercy, to instruct those who don’t know better.
Even when God punishes his people, it is not simply divine retribution. It is to get the people to change. It is not just to get them to change but as Paul tells the Corinthians, to serve as an example and warning to us, “so that we might not desire evil things, as they did.”
God is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” How patient are we? How forgiving are we? How kind are we?