This weekend we celebrate the Third Sunday of Lent. The Gospel passage focuses on two points: the understanding of suffering and the call to repentance. At first, in speaking to those gathered, Jesus tries to explain that the Galileans who were suffering were not greater sinners than those who were not. He took their mistaken notion of why some people suffer and others seem to be blessed is not dependent upon how good or bad they are or whether or not they have sinned or not sinned. God looks upon just and unjust in the same manner. All of us sin and all of us are in need of repentance. Jesus goes on to tell the parable of a particular fig tree that was not producing fruit in the orchard. The person to whom the fig tree belonged tells the gardener to cut it down. The gardener, however, tells him to leave it, and that he will cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it. The gardener also says that if it does not produce fruit in the future, then cut it down. God gives us second chances. When we are unfaithful to our baptismal promises and when we do not “produce fruit” – good fruit – God’s first reaction is not to cast us off. We do “judge” trees by their fruits and we do judge others by their words, actions, and by their social status. Sometimes, we do not want to give another a second chance. When we act in this manner, families are torn apart, friendships are broken, people suffer at home, at school, at work, and in the parish. And we ourselves suffer from our actions toward them. As we continue to reflect upon this Gospel passage, let us ask ourselves: how tolerant are we of others? Are we critical and judgmental? Do we judge by outward appearances? Or, do we empathize with others, extend compassion, offer forgiveness, or give a person a second chance? God has offered us the opportunity for continual conversion in our lives. Lent is the perfect season to repent and not only believe in the Gospel, but act in a manner that demonstrates that we truly are committed to the Gospel.
This Sunday is the first of our Vicariate Communal Penance Liturgies. It will take place at 2:30 PM at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption. Individual Confessions take place on Saturdays at 11:00 AM at Saint John Paul II Parish. Please take time to read the special insert in today’s bulletin entitled God’s Gift of Forgiveness, published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. One way in which we are able to respond to Christ’s invitation to continued conversion is to celebrate the sacrament of Penance this Lent.
Blessings on your Lenten Journey!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ