Homily for the third Sunday of Lent - Year C - Lk. 13:1-9


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"There were some present at that very time who told Jesus of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.'


"And he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, "Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?" And he answered him, "Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." ' "





Homily:


"There were some present at that very time who told Jesus of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.' "


In this season of Lent, we prepare for the feast of Easter by trying to purify our body and spirit, in order to abundantly receive the fruits of the Redemption of the Lord. Each week, Jesus, in his Gospel, invites all men and women to repentance and conversion of heart. The further on in time we get, the more we feel the rigor of judgment. For Easter is, of course, the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, but it is above all the feast of our own resurrection in Christ!


To undergo resurrection in Christ is to undergo the judgment of God! Indeed, the time of Lent is nothing other than the time of the life of the Church: these forty days of repentance are the days given to the Church in order that she might prepare for her meeting with the risen Jesus, the Lord of Lords, He who is "the Alpha and the Omega" (Rev. 21:6), the Husband who will return at the end of time. As Saint Paul says in today's second reading, the members of the Church are we "upon whom the end of the ages has come." (1 Cor. 10:11)


The justice of God always makes itself felt, but to us it sometimes appears "unjust"! Jesus himself seems to be referring to this when he says: "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus?" And he answers his question by saying: "No." Jesus clearly says that there is no proportion between the evil and sins committed by these people during their life and the tragic and painful end to which they came, which was allowed by God.


In fact, Jesus provides us with the reason for this disproportion between misdeeds and punishment: "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish." It was as if he had said: the misfortune that befell these people serves as an example and a warning to you who listen to me today. For Jesus - and this is the meaning of his teaching - there is a solidarity between all men and women, in both good and evil: what one person does for good or evil benefits or harms everyone! So, it is not surprising to see people who are overwhelmed by misfortunes they did not merit, but which they suffer due to the just permission of God, who wants to save all men, whoever they might be.


We all make up but one body, not only we in the Church, but also in the entire world: the men, women, and children of all ages and all cultures, all of them are men, creatures of God, who must render to the Lord the praise and glory he deserves. Some suffer much, and others less: is this unjust? No, what is unjust, ever since the Original Sin, is the sin of man! We should believe this. Moreover, the Lord insists on this, as he gives us another example: "Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."


"And he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, "Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?" And he answered him, "Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." ' "


This is an interesting parable. A man, the Son of Man (Jesus), for three years in a row, goes to see if a fig tree has borne fruit. The vinedresser suggests that the man wait a fourth year, until the end of that very year. So the man has already been waiting about three and a half years to see fruit on his fig tree. Three and a half years... This is a period of time that Jesus highlighted when he came to Nazareth in order to try to convince his fellow-citizens that he was the long-awaited Messiah: "There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months." (Lk. 4:25)


This period of three and a half years is found in several places in the Bible, and is always used in a prophetic manner, announcing a time of trial (cf. Dan. 7:25; Rev. 11:2-3; 12:14; and 13:5). It is a set period of time, as in the parable told by Jesus, and not a period of time that is relative and symbolic. But, though it is a time of trial, one must not spend this time in idleness and sloth. On the contrary, Jesus tells us in the parable that the vinedresser will "dig about it and put on manure" (Lk. 13:8). So, the vinedresser truly hopes that the fig tree will bear fruit in the fourth year...


One day, and perhaps that day has already come, we shall live this period of three and a half years in our life. It will not be the time for us to relax, but rather to get to work and bear fruit! For at the end of the fourth year, the Lord will cut down the sterile fig tree... The day will also come when the entire Church will undergo this time of trial, as was proclaimed in the book of Revelation (cf. Rev. 13:1-8). That will be the time to dig and fertilize the soil, in order that each tree - each man - might bear fruit for the glory of God and the salvation of the world!


Our resurrection in the Lord is near! Soon, the Mother of us all, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, will lead us into the presence of her Divine Son, in order that we might share in his Glory! But Resurrection and Glory is arrived at through trial and suffering willingly accepted in love: may Mary obtain for us the grace of a charity that will withstand any trial!



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