3rd Sunday of Lent (C).
THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE AND CONTINUOUS CONVERSION.“If you do not repent, you will all perish (Lk 13: 3.5).”
Today’s Sunday liturgy revolves around a central theme: the NEED FOR REPENTANCE AND CONTINOUS CONVERSION.
1. The 1st reading from Ex 3:1–8a, 13–15 recounts the divine plan of redemption with the VOCATION OF MOSES who was chosen by Our Lord to free God’s Chosen people from their slavery in Egypt and the REVELATION OF GOD’S NAME.
- God revealed Himself to Moses saying: “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob…I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so 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.”
- At the same time, He told Moses His own Name: “ ‘I AM WHO AM.’ Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you…Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. ‘This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”
- Augustine explains the name which God revealed to Moses stressing the fact that God is “always in Being”, who is faithful and is always with us, encouraging us as well to be with Him always.
Break the idols of our hearts, pay attention to what Moses was said when he asked what God’s name was: ‘I am who am’. Everything compared to God is as if were nothing. He who really is, does not know any kind of mutation. Everything that changes and is unstable and exists for some time, continues to suffer changes: it was and it will be; but does not include that which is. God, in turn, does not change: in Him, there is neither past nor future. That which was no longer exists; and that which will be, still is not and that which will later disappear, will not be. Think, if you can, these words: ‘I am who am’. Do not be troubled with fanciful and passing thoughts. Be with God who is, and you will remain in Him who is. Where are you going? Stay, so you as well, be in God” (Sermon 223, a, 5).
- As such, “By revealing his name God at the same time reveals his faithfulness which is from everlasting to everlasting, valid for the past (‘I am the God of your father’), as for the future (‘I will be with you’). GOD, WHO REVEALS HIS NAME AS ‘I AM’, REVEALS HIMSELF AS THE GOD WHO IS ALWAYS THERE, PRESENT TO HIS PEOPLE IN ORDER TO SAVE THEM (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 207).”
2. In the 2nd Reading (1Cor 10, 1-6.10-12), St. Paul states that the life of the people of Israel in the desert was written as a reminder for us: the divine plan of our salvation which began with the mediation of Moses will culminate in the redemptive work of Our Lord Jesus Christ. IN CHRIST, WE HAVE BEEN CHOSEN. HOWEVER, WE SHOULD NOT FALL INTO PRESUMPTION.
- Baptism is necessary for salvation but not sufficient. Correspondence to God’s grace is necessary till the end of our life.
- TO SEPARATE SALVATION THROUGH FAITH FROM MORAL CONDUCT SIGNIFIES TO COMMIT ANEW THE SAME MISTAKES (IDOLATRY, INCREDULITY, IMMORALITY) COMMITTED BY THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL IN THE DESERT, experiencing again the same errors they underwent.
- IT IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO RECEIVE THE SAVING GRACE OF GOD AND THEN REMAIN PASSIVE. CONTINUOUS FAITHFUL RESPONSE, CONVERSION AND INTERIOR STRUGGLE ARE NECESSARY. This is the reason why St. Paul said in 1 Cor 10: 12: “THEREFORE, WHOEVER THINKS HE IS STANDING SECURE SHOULD TAKE CARE NOT TO FALL” and in his letter to Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING; FOR IT IS GOD WHO IS AT WORK IN YOU, ENABLING YOU BOTH TO WILL AND TO WORK FOR HIS GOOD PLEASURE.”
3. IT IS THE SAME REASON WHY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST PREACHED THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE AND CONTINUOUS CONVERSION IN TODAY’S GOSPEL FOR WE ARE ALL SINNERS AND WHILE WE ARE IN THIS LIFE, WE WILL KEEP ON COMMITTING ERRORS AND SINS. Our Lord was explicit on the need for repentance when he said:
“I tell you, IF YOU DO NOT REPENT, YOU WILL ALL PERISH as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them— do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! (Lk 13: 3-5)”
He goes on to tell the parable of the barren fig tree (Lk 13: 6-9):
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
- With these words, Our Lord expects from us to bear fruits (cf. Lk 8:11-15) of good works, virtuous actions, of holiness which are in keeping with the graces we have received (cf. Lk 12:48) from Him.
- But he also tells us that God waits patiently for this fruit to appear; he does not want the death of the sinner; he wants him to be converted and to live (Ezek 33:11) and, as St Peter teaches, he is “forebearing towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).
- Nevertheless, GOD’S PATIENCE AND CLEMENCY SHOULD NOT LEAD US TO NEGLECT OUT DUTIES AND REMAIN PASSIVE, BECOME LAZY AND COMFORT-SEEKING, LIVING STERILE LIVES. He is merciful, but he is also just and he will punish failure to respond to his grace. And we must strive to correspond to His numerous calls towards conversion and repentance.
Dear friends, as St. Paul said: “As we work together with him, WE URGE YOU ALSO NOT TO ACCEPT THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN… See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!’ (2 Cor 6:1-2).”
“Domine, miserere mei: sana animam meam, quia peccavi tibi: Lord, have mercy on me: heal my soul for I have sinned against Thee (Psalm 41:4).”
Let us ask God’s grace so as to make good use of this season of Lent to sincerely repent of our sins and receive His forgiveness and mercy in the sacrament of Confession, with the firm and loving purpose of amendment of our life through the intercession of Our Lady, Refuge of sinners.
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