Homily for 20 March 2022 by Fr. Gerard Jonas
Third Sunday of Lent 2022
God’s Burning Love
Ex 3:1-8,13-15; 1Cor 10:1-6,10-12; Luke 13:1-9
When thousands are killed or made homeless by terrible natural disasters, say, an earthquake or a cyclone, or wildfires, or by war like the present crisis in Ukraine, or by the pandemic, are we to regard these as acts of punishment for those people? When we suffer physically (like when we get sick), or emotionally (when we are distressed or depressed), or spiritually (when we feel very sinful), we often feel abandoned or that God may be punishing us. When we do so, we add to the number of those who think that God thinks the way we do. That God operates in our standards.
How can this be consistent with God’s love? A love that forgives and seeks out the lost to be forgiven. A love that knows no boundaries as to send His only begotten Son to suffer, die and rise up again for the forgiveness of our sins.
How can this be when in God’s love He lets Jesus be nailed to the cross, from which He pleads for the forgiveness of his persecutors. What sin could be greater than his love and mercy? Jesus says there is one — the refusal to accept God’s forgiveness.
Therefore, it cannot be God’s will that we suffer and experience misfortunes, whether trivial or really catastrophic.
Throughout the Lenten season, we reflect on the compassion and mercy of our God. God is always faithful and consistent. His love for us never changes, no matter how we behave, no matter how serious our sins may be because God does not only love; he is love. Thus, He cannot but love. Love is the very essence of his being.
God’s love saves.
In the First Reading. God calls on Moses to save His Chosen People saying, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint… I know well what they are suffering. Therefore, I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul recounts how Moses, indeed, was able to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt.
God’s saving mercy and love continue.
In the Gospel, Jesus calls us to repentance. He tells of the parable of the fruitless fig tree. The gardener pleads with the owner to give it more time and promises that he would work on it to help it bear fruit.
Let us take advantage of this Sacred Lenten Season that calls to the triple disciplines of prayer, penance, and piety. This is a call beyond increasing the time we spend in praying, beyond increasing the sacrifices and asceticism in self-restraint like fasting and abstinence, beyond increasing the amount of resources we share with the poor and needy in pious works of charity. These are just means and not the end in themselves. Our growth in virtues displaces our tendencies for evil and results in our greater communion with God and one another.
But more basic is the call to repentance.
There is first the need to redirect our mind and heart towards God. When we miss the right turns in our spiritual journey, our spiritual navigator re-calculates our paths. God sends feelers and reminders. What distressing events in our life turn out to be burning bushes that redirect our way of life or inspire us to abide by God’s loving will? Who are the people who act as gardeners who patiently accompany and encourage us to grow as a person and as a follower of Christ?
On the other hand, to whom are we sent as patient and zealous gardeners lately? Or, how many burning bushes have we missed? May we be more attentive and so welcome all burning bushes and gardeners God sends our way. They abound for God never ceases to burn with love and mercy for us.
May we truly have a blessed journey to Easter through Lent.
God bless us always.