Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9
First Reading: In this dialogue with God, Moses wants to know how he is to speak about the experience of the suffering that has happened to the Chosen People. He is given the revelation of a new name for God, one that is personal and speaks of the ongoing and everlasting relationship that god will carry through all generations with the Chosen People.
Psalm 103: In this Jubilee of Mercy, “The Lord is kind and merciful” seems like such a simple phrase. Yet the second stanza of the psalm unpacks the abundant breadth of it. The Lord forgives all sin, heals all ills, and redeems our lives from destruction. The summons to bless the Lord at the beginning of this psalm is an apt way to offer praise and gratitude.
Second Reading: In today’s second reading, Paul’s clear message to the Corinthians to avoiding grumbling goes much deeper than complaint. Do not follow the same path as your unfaithful ancestors who turned their backs on God. Pay attention to the example of what happened to them; this Church too could lose God’s favor. We remember each day during this Lenten journey that we must demonstrate fidelity to God again and again at the depths of our being.
Gospel: In today’s parable, we can sense the vineyard owner’s frustration keeping a tree that has not produced fruit for three years. A barren tree takes time, energy and space. Better to cut one’s losses and plant a new one. But the gardener intercedes asking for a little long time to nurture it before it meets its fate. God is both like the owner and the gardener. God wants us to bear fruit now rather than biding our time. And yet out of the loving kindness God offers mercy and more time.
Reflection: The challenge of Lent is urgent: “repent or perish; bear fruit or be cut down.” But what does this urgency mean for most of us who are scarcely huge sinners?
Today’s Gospel offers lessons in both our need for repentance and God’s continued patient, faithful, and enduring love. Jesus warns his followers that escaping death or injury due to injustice or tragedy does not mean that they are less guilty and more deserving than others who have not. It was a strong Jewish assumption that suffering was caused by one’s level of sinfulness. Rejecting this rationale, Jesus states that all are called to conversion of mind and repentance of heart in their relationship to God. Jesus follows up this warning with the parable of the fig tree, a version unique to Luke. The desire of the owner to cut down the unproductive fig tree is countered by the gardener who recommends patience, greater care, and more time to allow the tree to produce. Luke’s Jesus clearly asserts that God desires repentance and conversion, yet God is ever gracious and always loving, giving us the time that we need to respond in loving trust and mutual love to God and others.
As long as there is life, there is potential to bear fruit. With God we always have another chance. This “chance” is what we call repentance—choosing new life and bearing good fruit. Are you ready to do some “cultivating?”
Question for reflection: What “cultivating” do I need to do for a more productive discipleship? ●
© 2016, Scott W. Eakins. All rights reserved.