THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR C
Theme: It Is Difficult to Give Up One’s Life in Love
First Reading:Exodus 3:1-8a.13-15;
Responsorial Psalm:Psalm 103;
Second Reading:1 Corinthians 10:1-6.10-12;
*The Sunday Missal, Paulines Publications Africa
Moses’ idea of justice is quite wrong. Nobody may take the life of another. It is true that he was repelled by injustice and loved the oppressed and wanted to help victims of injustice. As he herds his goats he realises how his Jewish brothers and sisters in Egypt are being victimised by their masters. God reveals his plan to him; he will be the one to free the people of Israel from slavery. As Moses is guarding his flock near Mount Horeb, God said to him, “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. Therefore I have come down to rescue them” (7-8)
In the second part of the reading (13-15) we have the revelation of the name of the Lord. God tells Moses to tell the children of Israel that “I am who I am” has sent him. Why does God call himself “I am who I am?” his names means, you will see who I am. You will see what I can do for you. The God who will be revealed to Israel is a God who feels passionately about the problems of his people, who doesn’t tolerate oppression of the poor and who intervenes to “liberate.”
God hasn’t changed his name. He always hears the cries of those who suffer. God asks us to ‘interfere’ in others lives when we see them abused and discriminated against, when we see how tradition has enslaved women to the extent that they are reduced to the level of cattle that may be bought, sold, and abused.
The Christian people in Corinth are good people. Some of them, however, were saying that baptism was all they needed to be sure of salvation. Paul corrects this by citing the people of Israel. The children of Israel believed in Moses and followed him. They crossed the Red Sea, ate manna and drank the water from the rock, and, yet, because of their infidelity none of them entered the promised land.
God’s favour does not come automatically nor are people saved as if by magic. It is not enough that we believe in Christ (new Moses), have been baptised (the crossing of the Red Sea), have received the Spirit (protection of the cloud), and have eaten the Eucharist (the bread and wine correspond to the manna and the water in the desert). We must always be Christians, otherwise we too may go astray, like the children of Israel in the desert.
The Pharisees taught: “There is no punishment without fault.” If God allowed some Galileans to be killed it was because they were sinners. Somebody tells Jesus about the people killed by Pilate. Jesus excludes any link between the death of these people and their sins, and then explains what we should learn from the event, nothing less than a call by God to conversion.
He recalls the death of 18 people buried under the rubble of a tower. Those people, says Jesus, were not punished because of sin. Their deaths were accidental. This too can be seen as an invitation to repent. Why doesn’t Jesus take a stand on the massacre? He certainly was not afraid of speaking out.
Oppressive structures cannot be toppled overnight. Some hold that violence is the only effective means of restoring justice. Force never brings good, it does not solve problems; it merely raises new and more serious ones. Jesus does not want to get involved with those who curse and swear. He is not insensitive to suffering or accidents or misfortune, but he knows that rage, hatred and revenge only make matters worse.
Jesus denies any link between sin and bad luck or misfortune. There are Christians who think like the Pharisees. They see wealth, good luck and health as blessings that God bestows on those who are good and suffering as a curse on the wicked. This is not true. Some evil is certainly caused by human wickedness, others the result of thoughtlessness. Poor rains, fires, accidents, illness must not be blamed on God or on a witch-doctor. They happen because our world is like that. What has God to do with what happens to us? Nothing that happens is outside his plan. No event, good or bad, casual or planned, escapes his love. He allows the universe to follow its course and nature to obey its laws. He allows people to act freely and guides matters in such a way that even bad things can lead to something good.
Jesus tells those who inform him about Pilate’s crime, “unless you repent you will all perish as they did.” Why? Because they entertain thoughts of violence and revenge and these feelings are not God’s. They must not rely on the sword. Unfortunately, they did not change and forty years later they were all massacred.
What change does God ask of us during Lent? What thoughts are incompatible with the Gospel? How long do we have to make the change? Can we put off changing for years? In the second part of today’s gospel (6-9) Jesus tells us it is urgent, very urgent, not an instant should be lost. As soon as we see the light of Christ we should jump up and follow it, immediately.
“‘I am’ has sent me to you.”
A reading from the Book of Exodus
In those days: Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here am I.” Then he said, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the sons of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the sons of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”
The word of the Lord.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all within me, his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all his benefits. R.The Lord is compassionate and gracious.
It is the Lord who forgives all your sins, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with mercy and compassion.The Lord is compassionate and gracious.
The Lord does just deeds, gives full justice to all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, and his deeds to the children of Israel.The Lord is compassionate and gracious.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in mercy. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so strong his mercy for those who fear him.RThe Lord is compassionate and gracious.
“These things that happened to the people with Moses in the desert were written down for our instruction.”
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernat-ural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.The word of the Lord.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ. Repent, says the Lord, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
GOSPEL READING Luke 13:1-9
“Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
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, ‘Behold, 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.’”The Gospel of the Lord.
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
*Adapted from: Celebrating the Word, Year C by Fernando Armellini— Paulines Publications Africa, Revised Edition 2007