3rd Sunday of Lent (C)

“Unless you repent, you will all die as they did.”

One of the recurrent themes throughout the Lenten season is the compassion and mercy of our God. History proves that Our 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. It is because God is fullness of love and he knows only to love.  It is God’s very nature and He cannot go against it. His love is like the sun, which gives its warmth to good and bad alike; like the gentle nurturing rain, which falls on good and bad alike.  We are called to imitate him by responding His love unconditionally. It is difficult for us as human beings to grasp the power and depth of his love. We do need to get rid of the idea of an angry, disappointed, vengeful God threatening catastrophe on a wicked world, an idea still being fostered by those who claim to have had special revelations.

Today’s Gospel reading underlines the Christian call to metanoia, which means conversion, repentance, and inner change, and heartens us with the reality of God’s unfathomable mercy. Jesus calls for decision and conversion by referring to two contemporary disasters and by narrating the parable of the barren fig tree. The first disaster was the Galilean massacre. Notorious for his harsh rule and insensitivity to Jewish religious beliefs, Pilate had caused the death of some Galileans while they were offering sacrifice, probably in the Jerusalem temple during the Passover. The other disaster involved what was probably a construction accident at the Siloam reservoir in Jerusalem. Jesus negates the popular speculations regarding the personal culpability of the victims of the Galilean massacre and the Siloam accident. At the same time he stresses the universal need for repentance. Unless all repent and respond positively to the Gospel, all will suffer the greater disaster of being alienated from God. The last section of the Gospel reading is Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree which received a reprieve, or stay, from the impending punishment by the vineyard owner in response to the gardener’s compassionate plea. The parable reminds us of the long-suffering of God, but it is also a warning that those who persist in their sinful refusal to repent will suffer and eventually be cut down.

The parable of Divine Patience:The fig tree was planted, watered and nurtured with manure and care, but it failed to produce any fruits. A tree is judged by the fruit it bears, so too in our lives. So today’s readings are asking us to take a good look at ourselves: whetherwe are like that tree that Jesus speaks of in the parable in today’s Gospel. It is alive but it bears no fruit. If the tree does not bear the fruits intended by the ownershould be cut down. Every Lenten season is our chance to fertilize our tree and to see how it can be more fruitful.

Each one of us is able to bear fruit– each one of us is gifted by God with the ability to produce what the Scriptures call in some places “the fruit worthy of repentance” and in other places “the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the fruit that is described in the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Galatians as consisting of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control”

Sin and tragedies:We know that tragic events can occur randomly, as in the cases of the Galileans and the eighteen Jerusalemites, and have nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the victims.  For example, a tornado that destroys a nightclub also destroys a Church. An earthquake or tsunami kills the saints as well as the sinners in the affected area. Drunk drivers kill innocent people. Ride-by shooters kill children and other innocent bystanders. Religious fanatics, terrorists and suicide bombers cause the untimely deaths of good as well as of bad people.  Violent people, with or without provocation, injure their loved ones. Only a few of us will have a burning-bushexperience, but all of us have struggled to understand why tragedy seems to befall innocent people. In all these cases, we need to trust in Divine mercy, believing that God is with us and God is on our side, even in those situations we cannot explain.  Jesus’ life is the clearest evidence that a person’s suffering is not proof of that person’s sin

In fact, every single experience we have is a sign of God’s love. If we are showered with blessings – spiritual, emotional or material – they are given that we may share them with others, so that we become a channel of God’s love to others. If we are struck down with disaster, disease, pain or failure, it is again a message for me to seek and find there the presence of a loving God. Paradoxically, it is often only through such experiences that we can grow and come closer to God and others. Good health and material prosperity can often lead to selfishness, individualism and neglect of others. Where there is love, there is God. Where there is no God, one is not likely to find much real love.