YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT
HOMILY THEME: Do you think you are better than those who have died? Repent or Perish
BY: Fr. Clem C. Aladi.
HOMILY: GOSPEL: LUKE 13:1-9
To speak of repentance is not fashionable today in a world that prefers to ignore sin, yet we who belong to Christ can testify that repentance is the way to forgiveness and freedom. It is the key that unlocks the mercy of God! The call to repentance is always addressed to ourselves first since all of us are continually in need of deeper conversion.
My dearest brothers and sisters, I welcome you to the third Sunday of Lent. All three of today’s readings speak of God’s mercy and compassion in disciplining His children by occasional punishment while giving them another chance despite their repeated sins. Although God’s love for us is constant and consistent, He will not save us without our co-operation. That is why He invites us during Lent to repent of our sins and to renew our lives by producing fruits of love, compassion, forgiveness, and faithful service.
~In the first reading of today, God says: ” 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 ” These lines beautifully expresses the compassionate heart of our God. Yes, the Israelites disobeyed God and as their punishment, God allowed them to experience the hard times of being under the bondage of slavery in Egypt; it was this hard experience that made them realize their need for God, and they cried out for deliverance. Their cries and prayers were heard by God, only after they had paid the price for their sins. At the right time, God stepped in to end their woes and slavery by appointing a mediator -Moses to spearhead the mission of their liberation as the leader of His people. God provided all that was needed to successfully accomplish that task of liberating His people from bondage and slavery.
Difficulties and hardships are part and parcel of our existential experience. In the dark moments of our lives, we often fail to acknowledge the presence of God. Often times, we think that God does not hear, understand or see our afflictions but on the contrary, He sees, He knows and He understands because nothing escapes His Knowledge – He is all-knowing. The hard times we experience are often God’s ways of disciplining us because He loves us. Proverbs 3:12 says: …” because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in”. Both the sinner and the saint experiences the “disciplinary love of God”. The degree of suffering is not directly proportional to one’s sins, only God knows the measure and degree of discipline He applies in dealing with His children in love, so when one person suffers more than the other, it is not because that person has sinned more than others. One basic truth about life is that we often suffer the consequences of our choices – good or bad.
Never you feel abandoned dear child of God, all you need is to learn from your present and past experiences and hardships, acknowledge your need for God and repent of your sins; someday, surely, God will be moved with compassion, He will hear your cry and send a liberator to end your sufferings. But while you are still suffering don’t lose faith in God because you may be going through some disciplinary and corrective experience that will forever transform your life.
~In the second reading, Paul warns the Corinthians and especially us in this present time, to learn from the experiences of the Israelites who were punished for their sins by a merciful but just God. The merciful and gracious God is also just and demanding, and hence they must be free from sexual sins and idolatry.
~The gospel of today sounds rather very harsh when Jesus says repent or you perish, but at the same time, it reminds of how God disciplines His people, calling them to repent from their sins, to renew their lives and to produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Citing two tragic events, Jesus exhorts the Jews to repent and reform their lives. With the parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus also warns them that the merciful God will not put up with them indefinitely.
Like those Jews you died, many died this year for many reasons: natural disasters, sickness, accidents and terrorist attacks etc. Those who died never experienced that ill fate because they were not loved by God or because they were the worst sinners, this is why we who are alive today, is not better than any them in whatever respect. Your life today is simply a privilege and this privilege is an opportunity for you to repent or experience the same fate as those who have died. God does not will the death of His creatures, neither does he enjoy watching unrepentant sinners die, that is why there is always a second chance with God. In Ezekiel 18:23 the Lords says: ” I do not take pleasure in the death of a wicked man( sinner) rather let him or her turn from his/her evil ways and live”. It is our sins that brings about death, when we sin, we consciously choose to abandoned the way of life and to embrace the way that leads to death.
We often don’t appreciate the little opportunities we have in life. We often take for granted the gift of our lives and waste the precious moments and times we should invest in creating holy moments and bearing fruits of holiness. We often think we have more time when in reality we live in the uncertainty of the next moment. Although God patiently waits for sinners to repent, giving them the grace to do so, He will not wait forever. Time may run out; therefore, timely repentance is necessary
Today, maybe your second chance; “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.’ ” Jesus is that mediator pleading on God the father for more time for us. Let’s appreciate the redemptive work of Christ in our lives and repent from our sins. The Lenten season is an ideal time “to dig around and manure” the tree of our spiritual life so that it may bring forth fruits of repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sensitivity to the feelings of others. Don’t forget that: “ a Lent missed is a year lost from the spiritual life.”
We need to make the best use of the “second chances”God gives us. During Lent, too, we are given another chance to repent and return to our Heavenly Father’s love.
” Without repentance, there is no real progress or improvement in life. Pretending there is no sin does not lessen its burden and pain. Suffering for sin does not by itself change anything for the better. Only repentance leads to the sunlit uplands of a better life” .
-D. Todd Christofferson
My dearest, the time is now, do not procrastinate. Now is the time to reconcile with God and others. Tomorrow is a promise to no one. Many have died, no one knows who will be the next. While time still lasts let us bear the fruits of holiness and reconcile with God and others.
I keep you and your family always in my prayers.
Fr. Clem C. Aladi.