Friday, March 1, 2013

Third Sunday of Lent Year C

Third Sunday of Lent Year C

Readings: Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9

The two phrases “God's patience” and “second chance” seem to capture best the message of this Sunday's readings.  The Lenten season is a second chance that God in his mercy and compassion offers us because God is patient with us. I recall that when I was about 17 years old in the Junior seminary, I got a second chance. I had the temptation of running away from God’s vocation because the life was really miserable, but I think God did not want me to get home. My seminary near Nairobi was surrounded by a National Game Park. That never bothered me. All I wanted was to get to my brother's residence in Nairobi and go home. I could not stand the many hours in a day we spent on manual labor. Very early in the morning, while the other boys were still asleep, I left and started my escape. After walking for 3 miles, I arrived at a valley with trees on either side, and fear entered into me. I did not know why, but on looking at the side of the dirt road, a person's head and the remains of the rest of the eaten up body by an old lion had been left there. I was even more frightened and was unable to continue my escape, and a voice asked me, where are you going? The danger that I could be the next one to be eaten up made me to turn and go back to the seminary. That is how I strangely got my second chance.

When a calamity struck the Jewish people such as the 400 years of slavery in Egypt, they saw that as being the consequence of their persisting unfaithfulness to God. As we hear from the first reading from Exodus, because God is patient and merciful, God gives the Jewish people a second chance. “I have observed the misery of my people.... Indeed I know their suffering, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians... to the country of the Canaanites..” It is God's initiative to come down and ask Moses to be his servant in delivering the people from slavery into freedom; from sin into faithfulness. God deals with us today in the same way he dealt with the Israelites in the Old Testament when they strayed and became unfaithful.

The Gospel is about sin, unfaithfulness and its consequences. The disasters mentioned in the Gospel were seen by the listeners of Jesus as being the result of unrepentant sin and unfaithfulness to God. But, after giving a clear warning on the consequences of sin, Jesus turns around and tells a dramatic parable about a barren fig tree that was not productive for three years. The way the gardener pleads with the owner portrays a patient, loving and compassionate God, who gives us a second chance to repent. “Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put some manure.” The Lenten season is like a second chance offered to us by God through the Church to dig around us and give all the help we need to convert. God “is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.” So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The readings invite us to take our second chance more seriously as an opportune moment to repent and deepen our relationship with God. 2) Lent is a time we could deeply experience the mystery of God's patience, love and compassion through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  3) In this sense, Lent can be a “joyful season”, a moment to celebrate the holiness, the joy and the happiness that Jesus shares with us as the loving, patient and compassionate gardener. 4) It is my hope and prayer that the Lord with indeed give us the grace that everyday during the coming week may be a gift and a moment of spiritual growth; a moment of coming alive to being God's new creation.

©2013 John S. Mbinda

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