Third Sunday in Lent
Lectionary: 30 (NAB Translation)
This week’s first reading is from the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. This passage recounts Moses’ dramatic first encounter with God in the form of a burning bush in the desert. Moses, a descendant of Abraham, has fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian and has gone to live in a remote wilderness region called Midian. One day while out tending sheep, God calls Moses’ name from within a mysterious bush that is on fire but is not burnt up. This calling is a reflection of God’s mercy. He has heard the cries of his people, these descendants of Abraham who are presently in slavery in Egypt and in His compassion initiates a plan to rescue them and to give them a land of their own. God calls Moses to lead this enormous task and Moses reluctantly agrees after God promises His help and protection. To confirm His mission, Moses asks God what name He is to give as the one who has sent him. The Catechism tells us in paragraph 206, “In revealing his mysterious name, YHWH (“I AM HE WHO IS”, “I AM WHO AM” or “I AM WHO I AM”), God says who he is and by what name he is to be called. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is – infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the “hidden God”, his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men.”
The response for this Psalm is: “The Lord is kind and merciful.”
The second reading comes from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. In this passage St. Paul warns against the sin of presumption. Regardless of whether we have been baptized or attend the sacraments, none of us can take our salvation for granted. St. Paul reminds us that even though the Israelites were chosen by God and were figuratively baptized in the waters of the Red Sea during their rescue from Egypt, they soon began to complain and to fall into idolatry. As a result, they perished under the divine justice of God. Likewise, despite the gift of salvation that the Corinthians had recently received, they too -like the ancient Israelites – were already complaining and grumbling with strife and envy among them. Paul reminds them of the fate of the early Israelites in the desert as a warning that the Corinthians were by no means automatically immune to God’s punishment. They too must be truly converted, turning away from all forms of sin and to be careful lest they fall. This lesson is for us too. We should remain grateful for all God has given us and never presume on God’s grace as a license to sin.
This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel begins with Jesus correcting a common misunderstanding. During this time, many people believed that suffering was God’s punishment for wrongdoing. Following this logic, they assumed that some Galileans who had recently died at the hands of the Romans under Pilate, and others killed in a recent construction accident were receiving retribution from God for their sins. Jesus essentially answers “No”, there is no direct correlation between this type of suffering and the sinfulness of the victims. On the other hand, we are ALL called to repent, and if we do not, our souls will perish in the same manner as these victims had perished. Jesus concludes this teaching with a lesson from a fig tree. The Lord expects His people to bear fruit as a result of the salvation offered them. Out of his mercy he provides us time to repent and bear fruit, but there will come a day when our time is up. Let us see this season of Lent as a gift from God who is mercifully giving us extra time to prepare ourselves to bear fruit so that we will not be cut down.
Gospel Meditation from Bishop Vásquez
Today Jesus challenges the people of his time and ours asking if we think those who suffer calamities are greater sinners than we are? To sin is to turn away from God. When we sin, to whom do we turn? We might first say we turn to other things or people, usually money, power, prestige, comfort. A bit more reflection reveals that we turn in on ourselves. God created us to be in in relationship with him, like the fig tree in the Gospel, with our faces and arms turned toward God. Only with Christ are we able to bear fruit. What distracts me and causes me to turn in on myself rather than turn toward God? Where do I need Christ in order to bear fruit?