YEAR C: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Lk 13:1-9
Message # 566: “The Task I Have Entrusted to You”
- The Marian Message
1) The Blessed Mother reminds all her children, especially her priests, of their mission or task during these final times. Mainly, it is “the task of bringing all into the safe refuge of my Immaculate Heart” (letter b).
2) There are three words emphasized in her message: “task” (it is our duty to accomplish this work since we belong to her army); “safe refuge” (we are in grave danger, and the Blessed Mother will protect us in these perilous times; and “all” (nobody should be left out; everybody must be saved from the hands of the enemy.)
3) Since everybody must be brought to the safe refuge of her Immaculate Heart, the Blessed Mother identifies the target groups. First, all her children who are “exposed to many dangers, subjected to so many acts of violence, set on the sorrowful road of sin and impurity” (letter c).
4) The second are the youth “in order to rescue them from the great danger of straying away from Jesus and me” (letter d). They are very vulnerable to the seductions and poison of the devil.
5) The third are the Christian families “that they may be assisted by me to live in unity and faithfulness; in prayer and love; open to the gift of life” (letter f). The devil has his vicious eyes on the families. So we see all kinds of attacks: divorce, infidelity, contraception, abortion and all anti-life agenda. They need to be assisted towards a stronger prayer life, and become agents of life and love.
6) The fourth are the priests, “the sons of my maternal predilection, that they may be encouraged and consoled by me, and assisted in becoming fervent ministers of Jesus” (letter g). Let us always pray for our priests so that they will be led into the safe refuge of the Immaculate Heart. Let us support them by our prayers and assistance because the world needs holy and zealous priests during these times of the terrible battle.
7) In summary, the Blessed Mother is asking us to spread the message of conversion and repentance to everybody, especially those groups directly identified by her. It is an invitation to cease walking the path of perdition and return to the Lord. This return will be made possible through the assistance and protection of the Blessed Mother. It is, therefore, our task to bring them all to the safe refuge of her Immaculate Heart.
- The Sunday Readings
a) The first reading is about the encounter of Moses with God in the burning bush atop Mount Sinai. God ordered Moses: “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place you stand is holy ground.” “Removing one’s sandals” connotes two meanings. First, it is a sign of respect for a place or a superior. This is similar to taking off one’s hat as a sign of respect. Second, it is also a sign of making oneself clean and worthy before somebody. The sandals or shoes, no matter how expensive they are, are the dirtiest among all outward garments because they touch the ground at all times. Removing them is an action of cleansing oneself so that he becomes worthy to enter a house or face a person of honor or authority.
b) In the second reading, St. Paul reminded the Christians at Corinth about the Israelites during the time of Moses: “God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.” Thus, St. Paul strongly warned them not to follow the example of these Israelites who desired evil things and grumbled against God. This is a call to repentance and conversion, with genuine humility as the underlying virtue: “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”
c) The Gospel mentions two unfortunate incidents: the Galileans who were killed by Pilate as they offered sacrifices, and the eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them. The Jews had the common belief that when some unfortunate events happen, as in sickness, accidents and calamities, these are God’s punishments for their sins. Jesus corrected this mistaken belief. “Do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!” It is not because they were more sinful than the others that they suffered such fate. Rather, Jesus reminded his listeners that these are strong warnings to all: “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” This Gospel account is a warning against judging anybody, for we are all sinners. At the same time, it is an urgent call to repentance and conversion – the time is now! This is the message of the parable of the fig tree that does not bear fruits. It is given a last chance to bear fruits; otherwise it will be cut down.
- Points for Reflection
a) Have we ever wondered why our face has only one mouth? We have two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two hands, and two feet, but only one mouth. The lesson is clear: we have to talk less, and double our efforts at listening, looking, and working. Unfortunately, many of us talk more and faster. We open our mouth more often than we look, listen and work. This is where trouble begins. And worse still, we use our eyes and ears for the wrong reasons. We look at others in order to find faults – so many of us are not only color- blind, but also goodness-blind. We use our ears not to listen to the needs and views of others, but to gather gossips and intrigues. Then such filthy information will immediately be forwarded to the mouth, and the evil news spreads like wildfire. The person who is the subject of this evil talk has no more chance to defend himself for he is already judged rashly; and his reputation is destroyed. This is what the people at the time of Jesus were doing. The victims of Pilate and the falling tower met horrible deaths, but instead of being kind to them, the people judged and condemned them as worse sinners. Destroying one’s reputation is another way of murder, and it is against the commandment of God.
b) Jesus expressly warned us: “Do not judge and you will not be judged!” But many of us do not take this seriously. We are all sinners. The difference is just a matter of degree – there are bigger sinners, and there are lesser sinners, but all sinners nonetheless. So when we see the sins and mistakes of other people, this is not an opportunity to ridicule, judge and look down on them; neither is this the chance to boast about our petty virtues and assume a “holier-than-thou” attitude. Rather, we should be reminded that what happened to them could also happen to us at any time. It is not a question of whether but when we ourselves will commit the same sins, considering that we, too, are weak and vulnerable. The ancient saying in Pilipino is accurate: “Dahan-dahan sa iyong pagsasalita at baka kainin mo ang iyong salita.” Let us picture ourselves as a group of people walking together. Some are walking ahead of us. And then one of them falls into an open manhole. It is not an opportunity to laugh at the unfortunate guy. Rather, we should consider three things: first, it should move us to help him get out of his sad situation. Second, it should also give us a warning so that we avoid that dangerous path. And third, it should move us to thank God that the sad event did not happen to us. Therefore, when we see the sins and blunders of others, we should be humble, forewarned and be merciful to them. This is precisely what St. Augustine said: “There is no sin or crime committed by another which I myself am not capable of committing through my weakness; and if I have not committed it, it is because God, in His mercy, has not allowed me to and has preserved me in good.”
- The Sacrament of Confession
a) The Church, being the repository of God’s boundless mercy for us sinners, is always extending her arms, ready to lift us up from our sinful life. She does this primarily through the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this sacrament is called by different names:
a. It is called the sacrament of Conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.
b. It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction (#1423).
c. It is called the sacrament of Confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
d. It is called the sacrament of Forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”
e. It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother” (#1424).
b) Although we are all sinners, we do not avail of this sacrament regularly. This is the sacrament that is most neglected and least appreciated. There are several reasons for this. First, many of us have already lost the sense of sin. It is similar to a guy who does not go to the barber because he believes his hair is not growing. The sins that we do not confess remain in us, and instead of disappearing, they grow and become worse. We get used to sin, and it becomes easy to commit graver sins. For example, when we do not confess our white lies, we get used to telling lies, until they become brown lies and later, black and deadly lies – unknowingly we have become cohorts of the Prince of Lies, the Devil.
c) Second, pride is another underlying reason for not going to Confession. Either they are ashamed to tell their sins; or they are ashamed to go back to Confession because they are committing the same sins again and again. In both cases, the person lacks humility, which is very essential to the sacrament of Confession. It is really ironic that many people are not ashamed to commit sinful and shameful deeds; but they are ashamed to go to Confession, which is the right thing to do. In a nutshell, this is the trend nowadays: doing bad is not shameful anymore; doing good is shameful.
d) Third, the lack of sufficient information and teaching on the sacrament of confession. There are two misconceptions that are very common among Catholics. First, they are afraid that the priest will divulge the information they give in confession. Many are not aware of the “Seal of Confession.” A priest who breaks the Seal of Confession, for any reason whatsoever, automatically incurs the penalty of excommunication. Second, they do not come to Confession because they are so presumptuous to believe that they have no mortal sin, and so there is no need for it. Many are not aware that the sacrament of confession gives two main benefits: a) remission of sins, mortal and venial; b) sacramental grace to become stronger in the fight against sin and temptations. So, it is still necessary to go to confession, even though we are not aware of any grave sin – small sins need to be confessed immediately (they have to be nipped in the bud), and we will receive graces to overcome our weaknesses and temptations.
e) Fourth, the lack of intention not to go back to sin again. Many feel that going to Confession is just an exercise in futility because of the many temptations and sinful occasions around that they cannot overcome or avoid. Why go to Confession when after a day or two I may commit sin again? Thus, the fourth element of the sacrament, Resolution – to resolve never to sin again – is not seriously fulfilled. Add to this the fact that it is not anymore sufficiently taught as a reminder to everybody that going to Communion while still in grave sin is a sacrilege. So they feel there is no urgent need to go to Confession since they can receive Communion anyway.
f) Fifth, the lack of priests ready and willing to hear confessions. It is now becoming more difficult to see a priest sitting in the confessional, waiting for penitents. Many priests would prefer not to have a regular schedule and a definite place for confession. In that way, the people will not know when he is available, and they will easily be discouraged to confess because they are embarrassed to have face-to- face confession. If the priest is really serious in hearing confessions, he should have a regular schedule for this and patiently sit inside the confessional and wait for the penitents. They will get used to the regular schedule, and eventually they will come. The so-called “ambush confessions” are not only doing harm to the sanctity of the sacrament, but also irritates both the priest and penitent. But many priests still prefer to offer “ambush confessions” because it is a very convenient way to effectively avoid hearing confessions.
g) The 4 Elements of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Contrition – being truly sorry for our sins. There are two kinds: a. Perfect Contrition – we are sorry for our sins because we offended God. b. Imperfect Contrition (called Attrition) – we are sorry for our sins because we fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.
Confession – private and individual confession to a priest is necessary, and it is the rule. The practice of General Absolution is an exception, and it is allowed only in extreme cases, such as a) when the priest has no sufficient time to hear individual confessions and the penitents, through no fault of theirs, will be deprived of the sacrament of Confession for a long period of time (example: in far-flung barrios) or b) when the number is so great that there is not enough time to hear individual confessions (example: when the military chaplain attends to the spiritual needs of soldiers on their way to the battlefield). And when allowed, the penitent who availed of the General Absolution is still required to go to a priest for individual confession the soonest time possible afterwards.
Absolution – the priest absolves the penitent. It is Jesus Christ who imparts the forgiveness of all sins confessed through the person and ministry of the priest.
Satisfaction (or penance) – the penitent is required to do something – either say some prayers or do some good works – to rectify himself and to repair the damage done.
Resolution – the penitent should have a serious resolve never to sin again. Otherwise, if he goes to confession and at the back of his mind he still intends to do it again, he is doing a mockery of the sacrament that may even lead to the grave sin of sacrilege.
Recite the Act of Contrition
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
Ano ang kabuluhan ng Pagkukumpisal para sa iyo?
Mayroon ka bang nararamdaman na hindi maganda kapag ikaw ay may mabigat na kasalanan? O baka naman hindi ka na naaapektuhan ng iyong mga kasalanan?
Pag-usapan sa inyong BEC ang mga paraan upang ikampanya ang sakramento ng Pagkukumpisal sa ating mga kapwa Katoliko.