Third Sunday of Lent, March 20
As You and I Continue Our Sojourn in Our Lenten Desert for These Forty Days and Nights, May God Increase Our Hunger to Grow in Holiness, to Grow in Righteousness and Love for an All-Merciful and All-Loving God.
In today’s Gospel, we read some very sobering words from our Lord, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
Our Lord conveyed the importance of this phrase twice in today’s Gospel, exhorting His listeners to reflect upon the importance of repentance, the importance of looking within ourselves and recognizing our failings, our own shortcomings and what needs our attention the most!
This reminds me of a personal experience I once had. Many years ago, I had purchased a home which had a well-manicured lawn in the front yard. The previous owner must have cared for it constantly, fertilizing and watering it, cultivating the lawn so that it would grow thick and weedless.
I continued the process – fertilizing the lawn four times a year, watering it daily, keeping it green, so that its appearance adorned the property with a beauty that one might find in a photograph from Lawn and Garden magazine.
Of course, over a period of time, maintaining this lawn was starting to cost me a small fortune, and I started cutting back on the fertilizer and the amount of water I was using for its care. And the effects of this decision began to show in the appearance of the lawn – weeds and crabgrass were beginning to grow in the soil, and the lawn no longer had the appearance of a thick green carpet.
The same can be said of how we take care of our souls. In this life, you and I may not be able to see what our souls look like, but God sees them. If we have cultivated our souls with a developed prayer life, if we have watered and fed our souls with the frequent reception of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, then our souls will appear to God as a well-manicured lawn – free of weeds and crabgrass, rich in color and pleasing to the eyes.
But if we let our souls go, if our time in prayer is only when it is convenient or when we need something, if we walk through life thinking that we are always free of sin and in no need of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, then our souls become starved of spiritual nourishment, and, as our Lord says to each of us today, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish…”
Feeding our souls, living in the state of grace, requires that each of us look within ourselves and reflect upon what kind of a personal relationship we truly have with our God. How much time do we set aside in our daily lives speaking to God? I mean, actually talking to Him as I am speaking to each of you reading this meditation right now?
What prompts each of us to come to Mass each week? Is it the fear of committing a mortal sin, or is it to be near the One who has given each of us the gift of life, the gift of our immortal soul, the gift of faith, and the most wondrous gift of Himself in the Most Holy Eucharist?
To attend Mass out of fear of committing a mortal sin is a good reason, but the far better reason is to be near the One who loves each of us beyond all human understanding, and to return that love in the prayers of adoration which we give to Him individually and in community.
The people of Moses’ day did not know God as you and I have come to know Him. Moses even had to ask the question, “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?”
They were still growing in their understanding of who God was, and the relationship which God was asking of them. Over time, the Jewish people came to know what our psalmist expresses in today’s Responsorial, “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.”
You and I have come to know that our God is a God of patience, desiring to lose none of His children. Our God is not a God who forces us to love Him; He does not force us to obey His Commandments. With the gift of free will, which He has given to each of us, God constantly and repeatedly invites His children to respond to His Love by embracing all that He asks of us.
God waits patiently for our response. But He also wants us to be aware that there are consequences for refusing His Love. And Paul is reminding his listeners, who are reading his Letter in the Church of Corinth, which we find in our Second Reading today:
“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.”
And “fall” we sometimes do! We find within many people throughout the world a willingness to make decisions based upon THEIR concept of what truth should be, upon THEIR perception of what is good and acceptable behavior in their own minds – even if these concepts and perceptions are contrary to the teachings of Natural Law, contrary to the mind and the will of God.
And Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that Natural Law is Eternal Law written by God in the heart of every human being. So if man starts making decisions which are contrary to God’s Law, then the Just Judge will hold that person accountable for the decisions which he or she makes!
But even in the wrong decisions which each of us may make in this life, whether they be great or small, our Lord is telling us in today’s Gospel that God will be patient with us, awaiting our repentance for the sins we commit.
The parable of the barren fig tree presents us with a story about the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet opened their hearts and atoned for their sinfulness.
Let us examine this parable in more detail –
The owner of the fig tree is God. The fig tree could be anyone in the state of serious sin. The gardener could be any one of us – a priest, a deacon, a minister, a parent or grandparent, maybe even our Blessed Mother or our Guardian Angel or some saint – all praying, all interceding for the conversion of someone we know or love.
The owner, who is God, starts by saying, “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?” The gardener, who prays and intercedes that the heart may be converted, says 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.”
I am sure we can all agree that we have a very patient God, a God who does not want to lose any of His children to the eternal horrors of Hell! But both Sacred Scripture and the Church does teach us that there is a Hell, and that it is for all those who, with full consent of an informed will, resolutely and stubbornly refuse God’s Merciful Love, right up to and including the moment of their last breath here in this life!
Jesus reminds each of us today, and His reminder is given to us out of Divine Love, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish…”
It is not a warning to make us fearful. Rather, it is warning to make us aware – to give us an awareness that there are consequences for unforgiven sin, for an unrepentant heart!
As you and I continue our sojourn in our Lenten desert for these forty days and nights, may God increase our hunger to grow in holiness, to grow in righteousness and love for an All-merciful and All-loving God, who only wishes for us to spend our eternity with Him in the home which He has prepared for each of us in His Heavenly Kingdom.
And may you and I set aside everything that would separate us from His Love, allowing His grace to work within us, allowing His grace to cultivate our love relationship with Him for the rest of our lives, so that our hearts may echo the words we find in Saint Peter’s Second Letter, “To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen”!
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13:3b; 13:5b)
- “Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy…For as the heavens tower over the earth, so his mercy towers over those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:8, 11)
- “…the LORD said: ‘I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them…’” (Exodus 3:7-8a)
- “‘But,’ said Moses to God, ‘if I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what do I tell them?’ God replied to Moses: ‘I am who I am.’ Then he added: ‘This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)
- “And do not become idolaters, as some of them did, as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.’ Let us not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell within a single day. Let us not test Christ as some of them did, and suffered death by serpents. 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.” (1 Corinthians 10:7-11)
- “Forty years I loathed that generation; I said: ‘This people’s heart goes astray; they do not know my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my anger: ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Psalm 95:10-11)
- “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
- “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
- “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.’” (Luke 13:7-9)
- “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
- “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
- “…grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)
Prayer for the Day
“Late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient,
ever new, late have I loved You!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for You.
“In my unloveliness I plunged into the
lovely things which You created.
You were with me, but I was not with You.
Created things kept me from You;
yet if they had not been in You
they would have not been at all.
“You called, You shouted, and You broke through my deafness.Saint Augustine of Hippo (The Confessions of Saint Augustine)
You flashed, You shone, and You dispelled my blindness.
You breathed Your fragrance on me;
I drew in breath and now I pant for You.
I have tasted You, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.”