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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Third Sunday of Lent - Parable of the Fig Tree

Third Sunday of Lent
March 3, 2013
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Luke 13:1-9
 "I shall cultivate the ground around it
and fertilize it; it may
bear fruit in the future
." (Luke 13:8-9)
The  readings for the Third Sunday of Lent call us to allow Our Lord to enter more deeply into our lives, calling on us to repent and transform our lives in order to bear good fruit. 
"The first reading is the familiar scene of Moses and the burning bush.  When God invades the bush, the bush is radiant, but not destroyed.  Similarly, when the Lord enters us, we are not destroyed, but rather we are more fully alive.
In the second reading, St. Paul provides a perennial warning to all those who have received blessings from the Lord, saying "whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12)
The Gospel selection is the parable of the fig tree, which calls us to reform our lives and bear fruit before it is too late.  We must not be afraid of opening ourselves to His presence in our lives, and we must not become complacent as "Sunday Catholics" as though God doesn't expect our very best. God wants to enter into our experience and liberate us, so that we may be instuments of His mercy and love to others." (Catholic Scripture Study International, Lent: The Road to Redemption, Cycle C, page 25)
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts
.” (Psalms 95:7-8)
The Urgency of Repentance
Today's Gospel begins with Jesus addressing the question as to why bad things happen to certain people. "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?...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!"  (Luke 13:2-5)  
Sometimes God permits us to be tried by suffering in order to lead us to a greater good, or just to get us back on track, walking our journey in communion with Him.
None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow, or even another moment.  By using these two examples Jesus portrays a sense of urgency to our call to repentance.  In the second reading Saint Paul also warns us against complacency, "whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall." There is an urgency to do our best to try and always be right with God.   
"The desire for God is written
in the human heart,
because man is created by God and for God;
and God never ceases to draw man to himself.
God wills everyone to be saved and
to come to the knowledge of the truth
(CCC #27, 1 Timothy 2:4)
God Is Patience
The Gospel ends with the parable of the fig tree.  Though this does not give us a reason to dismiss Jesus' earlier warning of urgency to repentance, or Saint Paul's warning not to be complacent, it does give us some good news, that God is patient. 
The people listening to Jesus as he spoke this parable would have understood the barren fig tree to be Israel, but as members of the Church we are all by extension that barren fig tree. 
In this parable, God the Father is the owner of this orchard where the fig tree was planted.  God had cared for this tree for three years patiently waiting for fruit to grow.  But no fruit had been produced and God asked the gardener to cut the tree down for it was exhausting the soil of nutrients that could cultivate and fertilize the other trees of his orchard. 
The gardener in this parable is Jesus who intercedes for us [the fig tree] with God [the owner].  Jesus offers to cultivate and fertilize the ground for another year giving the tree one more opportunity to bear fruit.
During this season of Lent, we are invited to honestly examine our lives, removing anything that keeps us away from God. As we draw near to God, He will cultivate our souls with the life of the Holy Spirit. 
For items related to the Catholic faith

The Vine Dresser and the Fig Tree - James Tissot
The Parable of the Fig Tree - Jan Luyken 

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