3rd Sunday of Lent Year C. 24-03-2019 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Exodus 3:1-8. 13-15
Psalm: Psalm 103: 1-4, 6-8, 11
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
When God wants to send someone for a mission, He takes His time to call and prepare the person for that mission. And mission is always a movement of being sent from nothingness to somethingness. This means that our God is a patient God who takes His time to work out and actualize His plans. Today He calls Moses so as to send him to go and liberate His people, the children of Israel from their captivity in Egypt. This is the first time God reveals His personal name to a human being using the Tetragrammaton YAHWEH – I am who I am. And Moses was asked to remove his shoes so that he could get closer to the Holy God. This is what the season of lent is all about as well, requiring us to abandon our plans and remove our old sinful ways from our lives so as to return to the divine life of God so that He can fill us and liberate us from evil to good.
The call of Moses who led Israel’s long and hard journey to freedom today calls to mind Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography – Long Walk to Freedom. This only memoir published during the life of Mandela, details his ascent from an anti-apartheid activist and Robben Island jailed terrorist, to African National Congress leader and a cultural icon who will not only emerge the first black president of South Africa, but the greatest freedom fighter of the 20th century. Rolihlahla as he was named by his father which means ‘troublemaker’ in his native Xhosa, was a sheep and cattle herder as a child. Despite his humble beginnings he managed to educate himself in a small school house in his village, and later lost his father at about nine years of age. Things then became very tough for him but he never gave up his dreams of going to school. When they wanted to force him to take a wife, he ran away to Johannesburg where he began fighting full force against human oppression and exploitation, advocating for freedom of the oppressed and equal rights for all non-violently. Eventually he was falsely accused of treason and was imprisoned. The government pressured him to renounce his ideas and methods so as to be set free but he refused until the court found him not guilty after 27 years in jail. He came out of prison and began the work of rebuilding post-apartheid South Africa as the first black president in a peaceful and non-violent manner, forgiving all those who maltreated him. In one of his famous quotes, he said, ‘I could not imagine that the future I was walking toward could compare in any way to the past that I was leaving behind.’ This famous quote of Mandela can be likened to the call to repentance in our readings of today where we are called to leave behind our sinful past old ways of life and move toward the future of a holy and new way of life just as Moses left behind his shoes when called to liberate Israel from the slavery of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan.
Often times many of us feel that sufferings and tragedies in life are due to our own sins, and that in fact they are punishments for our faults, while good fortune, wealth and privileges are blessings that come to us as rewards for righteous living. Today the Lord invites us to learn something from everything that happens to us in life, whether good or bad. The children of Israel in the first reading were suffering in Egypt, not because they had sinned against the Lord. That is why the Lord heard their cry and was moved to come to their aid, to liberate them from their sufferings. So the Lord knows everything that we are passing through. When we are suffering, we feel He does not care, He has abandoned us, and He would not come to our aid. Israel suffered for over 400 years in Egypt…they thought the Lord had abandoned them, yet He was close to them and was preparing Moses to come and set them free. The Lord is coming to you too, to set you free from your sufferings. When the Lord delays in the face of persecution, suffering and injustice, it is not because He is not interested in us, but He always wants the conversion of the one who is in the wrong. For His word says ‘as I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather let him turn from his evil ways and live (Ezekiel 33:11).’This is the same reason Christ gives to the people in the gospel reading who suppose that the Galileans killed by Pilate in the temple and the 18 killed by the collapsed tower of Siloam all died because they had terribly sinned against God. He recalls that all these deaths were accidental, and should rather be seen as an invitation to repentance. Because sudden death can meet with anyone of us, as long as we are in this world, and it is only true repentance and conversion of heart that can keep us prepared at all times before God. So when people’s lives come to a sudden end, as we call it untimely death, whether through accident, disease, violence or natural disasters, Jesus assures us today that God knows, but the time is not yet ripe for Him to come as judge of all, to protect the innocent victims of evil in the world and to bring the evildoers to their just end. As the farmer today gave the fig tree one more chance to bear fruit, God gives us all a little more time to change our ways. This is the opportunity that the season of lent offers us all, and we must make good use of it.
Just as the ground where Moses was called is a holy ground, the season of lent is also a holy season God has given us to remove our shoes of sin in order to approach Him closely in holiness by choosing not just to follow Him with our words, but more importantly with the actions of our lives. What sins are you finding more difficult to remove in this season of lent? Is it lies, fornication/adultery, stealing, gossip, selfishness, gluttony, drug abuse, wickedness, greed, hatred, murder e.t.c.? Act courageously by removing them now. We must not procrastinate our conversion to some moment in the future because that future time might never come. The time to change is now. Towers still fall just as we heard of the school building collapse in Lagos, massacres still take place as it did last week at Christchurch in New Zealand, loved ones still die tragically as we saw in the Ethiopian airlines crash of March 10 in Addis Ababa. Therefore we must turn to God now and at all times for reconciliation, beg for forgiveness and ask Him through prayer, fasting and almsgiving to heal our world of evil. We must spare no time in strengthening our relationship with God, and with the people around us especially in this season of lent. For it is the favourable time to do that, that moment of grace to ask for mercy and also for the grace to bear fruits. May the Lord help us to make good use of this season of lent as an opportune moment to obtain conversion of heart. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.