Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent ©, March 24th, 2019:
The readings today give us a very good description of the God who loves us so much. God is holy. In the first reading from Deuteronomy, God tells Moses “Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground”(Deut 3:5). God’s presence alone makes the ground holy. God is also actively concerned. God tells Moses “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”(Deut 3:7). Another characteristic is that this God reveals Himself. Moses notices the burning bush. He was simply tending sheep when God called him. God is also compassionate. He watches closely, lovingly. God’s name reveals being. God being means active participation and involvement. Yahweh will act on behalf of His people. He also forgives and protects. God is faithful to those who are faithful to His covenant. He is also just.
The Psalm tells us how we should react to this loving God. We ought to bless the Lord with our very souls. We ought to bless his holy name (Ps 103:1). We ought to pay God respectful conduct.
St. Paul also gives us directions on how to act towards our loving God. He tells the Corinthians to be careful and fervent. Always hold onto our love for Jesus Christ and the state of sanctifying grace in our souls. In other words, guard against complacency. St. Paul writes: “Therefore whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall”(1Cor 10:12). Complacency is defined as “secure satisfaction with oneself and one’s lot.” That is a dangerous place to be. St. Paul warns the Corinthians to avoid idolatry. He says don’t be so smug that you think you can participate in idolatry and keep your blessed relationship with Jesus Christ. St. Paul tells the Corinthians about the Israelites during the Exodus. He says they rebelled and God punished them. St. Paul tells the Corinthians to learn from Israel’s mistakes. God led them through the Red Sea and gave them manna. These acts are blessings which show God’s active involvement in His care for His people. But God punished them because they worshipped idols, turned away from God, and grumbled against Him. St. Paul says their story is in Sacred Scripture as an example of people not to follow, imitate. He tells the Corinthians that they have received superior blessings to the Israelites. They have received the sacraments of this Church. So he tells them to not be complacent, overconfident, and complacent in the face of anything connected with idolatry. Then, St. Paul intensifies his warning to the Corinthians. St. Paul tells them that God delivered all the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. But most of them perished in the desert. God destroyed them in His wrath because they decided to serve false gods instead of Him. The Scriptures show the Israelites as examples to avoid.
Jesus shows that God His Father is slow to anger. But Jesus Christ in today’s gospel encourages repentance from sin. Jesus wants us to repent now. Jesus requires decision and reform from us. He says in the present age, neither disaster nor good fortune indicates a man’s spiritual state. But those who are evil will certainly experience disaster in the coming judgment. Jesus tells those people in today’s gospel the parable of the fig tree. He says “But I tell you, if you do not repent (now), you will all perish as they did”(Lk 13:5). Jesus says now is the time to produce fruit/evidence of a life dedicated to God. The time might even be extended as it was for the fig tree. But ultimately, God’s judgment will come. So Jesus urges immediate repentance. He says to ignore, neglect, or reject His call to repentance is to invite disaster. Holy Mother Church, in her infinite wisdom, has even set aside time for us to do that. It is called Lent. This is a time of grace and prayer for each of us individually and collectively. It is given to us because God is slow to anger and of great kindness. But we must guard against complacency. Complacency hardens our hearts and makes us unresponsive to God’s grace. So, do you really want to know why this Church requires you to fast, pray, and give alms? It is to guard against complacency. It is to prompt us to repent immediately. It is to love Jesus unreservedly. It is to bring us close to Him and to keep us there.
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