3d Sunday of Lent
March 22, 1992
Ex 3: 1-8, 13-15
Luke 13: 1-9
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.
A Scouting camping trip was canceled, leaving me without a Sunday Mass assignment--or a new homily to prepare. So I reached into the historical repertoire for this.
“I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint…. Therefore I have come down to rescue them…” (Ex 3: 7-8).
The Lord called Moses to deliver his people from slavery to the Egyptians and lead them to the Promised Land. The voice of the Lord spoke from the desert shrub that, marvelously, was burning but not consumed. And God revealed his holy name to Moses and to the Israelites.
God the father sent his Son Jesus to deliver his people from slavery to our own selfishness and lead us to a promised land. That is the land of which St. Paul spoke last week when he said, “We have our citizenship in heaven” (Phil 3:20). God sent his Son in a marvelous way, born of a woman whose virginity was not consumed in her conceiving and giving birth. And God revealed himself to the apostles and to the new Israel, which is the Church.
All who followed Moses passed marvelously thru the Red Sea and were marvelously fed by the manna and water that God provided. Yet most of them displeased God by their faithlessness and rebelliousness, and they died in the desert. St. Paul pointed to the example of our spiritual ancestors, the Hebrews who followed Moses out of Egypt. Like them we have passed marvelously thru the saving waters: for them the Red Sea, for us the baptismal font. Like them we are fed by divinely provided food: for them the mysterious manna and the water from the rock, for us the Body and Blood of Christ. And like them, we have our faith and our obedience to God tested daily in the wilderness: for them the hostile wilderness of Sinai, for us the hostile wilderness of modern society. (1 Cor 10:1-5) St. Paul gives the same warning that Jesus does: “Let anyone who thinks he is standing upright watch out lest he fall!” (10:12).
|Jesus teaching in Jerusalem by James Tissot|
In a most general sense, we’re right. We all suffer because of sinfulness. In the kingdom of God, sin will be wiped out, and the love of God shall reign in the hearts of all the redeemed. In the meantime, all of us are still sinners in need of redemption, and Jesus tells us bluntly: “You will all come to the same end unless you repent” (Luke 13:5). That end, tho, is not violent death on earth but everlasting misery in hell.
God does not want the death of sinners (cf. Ezek 18:23). He sent his Son to call us back, to convert our hearts, to show his patience with us. Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree to show us God’s patience, God’s willingness to coax us along toward goodness. We must note, however, that that fig tree has a limited period of grace, just as we have a limited life on earth. When that time is up, the tree—and we—shall be judged on our fruitfulness.
The Lord led his people “into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8). Today we are that milk and honey which make the land good and sweet and fruitful. Or, if we are not, the Lord is calling us to reform our lives, to begin to bear the sweet fruits of goodness and love while we still have the time.
Today the Lord witnesses the affliction of the peoples of the earth and hears their cries of complaint; today he comes down to rescue them—and we are Moses, to announce God’s presence to them; we are Christ, to reveal God’s care for them.