Lent III [C] Sunday (March 24) One-page summary
Central theme 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.
Scripture lessons, summarized: The first reading tells us how God shows His mercy to His chosen people by giving them: Moses as their leader and liberator. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (v. 6) reveals Himself to Moses from the burning bush and assures Moses of His Divine presence with His people and of His awareness of their sufferings in Egypt. He declares His intention to use Moses as the leader who will rescue His enslaved people. Then God reveals His name as Yahweh (“I AM Who AM”) and renews His promise to the patriarchs (v. 8), to give them a “land flowing with milk and honey.” Our Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 103) reminds us of God’s unfailing mercy: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” The second reading warns us that our merciful God is also a disciplining God. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that they must learn from the sad experience 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. Today’s Gospel explains how God disciplines His people, invites them to repent of 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. Although God patiently waits for sinners to repent, giving them grace to do so, He will not wait forever. Time may run out; therefore, timely repentance is necessary. Hence, one can say, “A Lent missed is a year lost from the spiritual life.”
Life Messages: 1) We need to live lives of repentance, because (a) we never know when we will meet a tragedy of our own. Let us turn to Christ, acknowledge our faults and failings and receive from him mercy, forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. There is no better way to take these words of Jesus to heart than to go to sacramental confession, and there is no better time to go to confession than during Lent. (b) repentance helps us in life and in death. It helps us to live as forgiven people and helps us to face death without fear. 2) We need to be fruitful trees in God’s orchard. Lent is an ideal time “to dig around and manure” the tree of our life so that it may bring forth fruits of repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sensitivity to the feelings of others. 3) We need to make the best use of the “second chances” God gives us. Our merciful Father always gives us second chances. During Lent, too, we are given another chance to repent and return to our Heavenly Father’s love.
LENT III SUNDAY: Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15; I Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9
Homily starter anecdote 1: Natural tragedies: We have experienced devastating natural tragedies as earthquakes in Haiti and Chile in 2010 and as Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. in 2005. The earthquake in Haiti occurred at 4:PM on January 12th. It was less strong but more devastating than the one in Chile. The earthquake in Haiti killed 230,000 people, injured 300,000 and left a million people homeless as it destroyed 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings. The earthquake in Chile occurred at 3:34 AM on February 27th; it measured 8.8 on the Richter scale, killed 279 people, damaged 500,000 homes in six cities and caused 8.5’ tsunami flooding nearby islands and coastal areas. Hurricane Katrina occurring in the U. S in late August 2005, was the costliest hurricane and the greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States. At least 1,836 people lost their lives in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods. The storm caused severe destruction along the Gulf Coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge. The most severe loss of life and damages to property occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana. Flood waters inundated 80% of the city and covered large tracts of neighboring parishes remaining in place for weeks. Hurricane Katrina caused damages totaling $100 billion, outstripping by many times the damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (Adapted from Wikipedia). Citing two tragic local incidents in today’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts the Jews to repent of their sins and reform their lives so that they may not face the greatest human tragedy — eternal damnation. Such natural tragedies also show us our human limitations, demonstrated in our inability to understand why a merciful God allows such tragic events to occur. Are they His means of disciplining His children?
#2: Joy of being forgiven: In his memoirs, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation, humbly and frankly acknowledges that, when he was fifteen, he stole a little piece of gold from his brother. A few days later, he felt very guilty and decided to come clean by confessing to his father. So, he took a paper, wrote down his fault, sincerely asked his father for forgiveness and promised never to repeat the offence. Taking that note to the bedroom of his father, the young Gandhi found him ill in bed. Very timidly he handed the note to his father without saying a word. His father sat up in bed and began reading the note. As he read it, the senior Gandhi was so deeply moved by the honesty, sincerity and courage of his son that tears began to stream from his eyes. This so touched the son that he burst into tears as well. Instinctively both father and son wrapped their arms around each other and wordlessly shared their mutual admiration and joy. This notable experience made such an impact on Gandhi that years later he would say, “Only the person who has experienced this kind of forgiving love can know what it is.” – This precisely is what happened when the repentant prodigal son returned home. Such is God’s merciful forgiveness and benevolent love for all who resolutely turn over a new leaf, especially during this Lenten season. (Rev. James Valladares in Your Words O Lord are Spirit and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
#3: One more chance: Just before Christmas in 1985, we were shocked by an air crash in Newfoundland, Canada. That crash killed more than 200 American soldiers on their way home for the Christmas holidays. A few months later in 1986, we were stunned again by another national tragedy when the space shuttle Challenger exploded only 74 seconds after lift-off. Seven astronauts were killed in that catastrophe. Today’s Gospel gives us two examples of shocking disasters that occurred in Christ’s lifetime. One of the incidents was the ruthless murder of some Galileans while they were in the middle of their Temple sacrifices. The victims were probably political agitators, and this was Pilate’s way of silencing them. The other incident was a construction accident which occurred near the Temple during the building of a water aqueduct. Apparently, this building project was hated by the Jews because Temple funds had been appropriated by Pilate to finance it. These two incidents are brought up because the Jews of Jesus’ day presumed that those who were killed were being punished by God for their sins. But Jesus denies this. Instead, he asserts that what really destroys life is our unwillingness to repent and change our lives. Jesus says, not once, but twice by way of emphasis: “Unless you repent, you will perish as they did.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
Introduction: All three of today’s readings speak of God’s mercy and compassion in disciplining His children by occasional punishment, while giving them many “second chances” 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. The first reading tells us how God shows His mercy to His chosen people by giving them Moses as their leader and liberator. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (v. 6) reveals Himself to Moses from the burning bush and assures Moses of His Divine presence with His people and of His awareness of their sufferings in Egypt. He declares His intention of using Moses as the leader who will rescue His enslaved people. Then He renews the promise He made to the patriarchs (v 8), to give them a “land flowing with milk and honey.” In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 103) the Psalmist reminds us of God’s mercy: “He pardons all your iniquities; He heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction; He crowns you with kindness and compassion…. “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” The second reading warns us that our merciful God is also a disciplining God. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that they must learn from the sad experience 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. Today’s Gospel explains how God disciplines His people, invites them to repent of 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, he also warns them that the merciful God will not put up with them indefinitely. Although God patiently waits for sinners to repent, giving them grace to do so, He will not wait forever. Time may run out; therefore, timely repentance is necessary. Hence one can say, “A Lent missed is a year lost from the spiritual life.”
The first reading: Ex. 3:1-8, 13-15, explained: This reading explains how God, speaking from a burning bush, called Moses to leave the tending of his father-in-law’s flock for a challenging role as liberator of God’s Chosen People. Moses was to free the Israeliteds from their enslavement by Egyptian rulers who were systematically persecuting and exterminating them. The reading contains the call of Moses, the greatest Jewish liberator and law-bringer, and the explanation of God’s proper name: Yahweh. God not only trusts Moses enough to share His Name with him, but He also explains what it means. “I AM Who AM,” Yahweh proclaims. “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” YHWH (without vowels, as it is written in Hebrew), means “I am Who am” (St. Jerome, Vulgate) or “I am He Who is” (Septuagint) or “I am Who cause to be” (modern Bible scholars). God also insists He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Israel’s ancestors, in order to prepare the freed slaves to reclaim their noble heritage. This reading is appropriate for Lent, because it begins the story that will reach its climax so dramatically on Holy Saturday with the reading which explains how Moses finally led the Israelites out of Egypt. Though God’s salvation is always available, only those willing to change their core lives ever notice it. Repentance is the first step in our redemption. That is why Jesus gives the strong warning in today’s Gospel, “If you do not repent, you will all perish.” We are called to abandon our false gods of money, power and pleasure and return to the one God, who “secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.”
The second reading: I Cor 10:1-6, 10-12, explained: The second reading is Paul’s commentary on today’s first reading. Paul warns the Christians of Corinth that they must avoid overconfidence and learn from the experience of the Israelites, in order not to repeat their mistakes. Referring to the golden calf episode and the judgment that befell the Israelites in the wilderness (10:7-11), Paul offers words of admonition (10:12), assurance (10:13) and warning that God’s mercy has its limits. The Israelites, led by Moses, passed miraculously through the sea as they escaped from Egypt. God led them across the desert by means of a cloud and gave them water from the rock when they were thirsty and delicious manna as their staple food. Despite all these wonders, however, many were still faithless. Therefore, God let them die in the desert without reaching the Promised Land. Paul sternly warns the Corinthians that they are in the same danger, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care lest he fall.” Paul exhorts his converts to be faithful and not to presume that membership in the Christian community automatically saves them. Later in his epistle Paul speaks of repentance, using the Greek word metanoia, which means “a decision which changes the direction of a person’s life or behavior.”
Gospel exegesis: 1) Tragedy of Divine warning and disciplining: Jesus uses two local tragedies to teach us about our need for repentance and a renewal of life. The slaughter of the Galileans by Pilate, recorded in today’s Gospel reading, is unknown outside Luke’s Gospel. But the Jewish historian Josephus reports how Pilate disrupted a religious gathering of Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim with the slaughter of the participants. On another occasion, Pilate killed many Galilean Jews who protested when he appropriated money from the Temple treasury to build an aqueduct in Jerusalem in order to obtain a better water supply for the pilgrims. But Luke presents these two real incidents as one tragedy, which occurred in the Temple premises. Even though it was Pilate who commanded the atrocity to be carried out, the natural assumption at the time was to think that the victims were particularly guilty and must have somehow “deserved” it. Some Bible scholars think that Jesus is simply predicting the foreseeable political and military consequences of not embracing Jesus’ call to “Kingdom ethics”—love, forgiveness and non-retaliation.
2) The tragedy at the aqueduct: Jesus proceeds to connect his warning to another episode, namely, what appears to have been an accident related to the renovation work on the control tower of the water supply scheme at Siloam, in which eighteen people died. The Jews interpreted this tragedy as God’s punishment of the workers who had co-operated with Pilate in his sacrilegious aqueduct project. Jesus denies that either the Galileans or the eighteen people suffered because of their sins, but he calls his listeners to repent lest they suffer for theirs. In fact, Jesus presents both these incidents as timely reminders of the need for all to repent, saying, “… unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Repentance is given major emphasis in Luke’s Gospel (3:3; 3:8; 5:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7; 16:30; 17:3; 24:47). The call to repent of one’s sins always includes the threat of Divine retribution if one does not repent and the promise of forgiveness if one does. By citing two tragic events, Jesus warns his listeners not to spend their time speculating about the guilt of others, but to concentrate on examining their own lives, and their own need for repentance and forgiveness.
3) Sin and tragedies: We know that tragic events can occur randomly, as in the cases of the Galileans and the eighteen Jerusalemites, and have nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the victims. For example, a tornado that destroys a nightclub also destroys a Church. An earthquake or tsunami kills the saints as well as the sinners in the affected area. Drunk drivers kill innocent people. Ride-by shooters kill children and other innocent bystanders. Religious fanatics, terrorists and suicide bombers cause the untimely deaths of good as well as of bad people. Violent people, with or without provocation, injure their loved ones. Only a few of us will have a burning-bush experience, but all of us have struggled to understand why tragedy seems to befall innocent people. In all these cases, we need to trust in Divine mercy, believing that God is with us and God is on our side, even in those situations we cannot explain. Jesus’ life is the clearest evidence that a person’s suffering is not proof of that person’s sin. While sin can lead to tragedy, not every tragedy is the result of sin.
2) The Jewish concept of repentance at Jesus’ time: Teshuvá was the key concept in the rabbinic view of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. The Jewish rabbis taught that repentance required five elements: recognition of one’s sin as sin; remorse for having committed the sin; desisting from repeating this sin; restitution for the damage done by the sin where possible; and confession. “Confession” for the Jews had two forms: ritual and personal. Ritual confession required recitation of the liturgies of confession at their proper moments in the prayer life of the community. Personal confession required individual confession before God as needed or inserting one’s personal confession into the liturgy at designated moments. One who followed these steps to teshuvá was called a “penitent.” In fact, Jesus invited his Jewish listeners to such repentance. “Repent” (Greek, metanoia), implies not just regret for the past but a radical conversion and a complete change in our way of life as we respond and open ourselves to the love of God. Repentance, or a turning away from one path to another, is not so much finding God as being found by God. Jesus calls us today to “repentance” – not a one-time change of heart, but an ongoing, daily transformation of our lives.
3) A parable of Divine patience: On the one hand, Jesus informs us that those who do not repent will perish. On the other hand, Jesus tells us a parable about the patience of God. The fig tree in His parable is a familiar Old Testament symbol for Israel (see Jeremiah 8:3; 24:1-10, Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1). As the fig tree is given one last season to produce fruit before it is cut down, so Jesus is giving Israel one final opportunity to bear good fruits as evidence of its repentance (see Luke 3:8). This metaphorical story of the fig tree planted in the vineyard reminds us of the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7. The fig tree is considered as a symbol of the People of Israel (see also Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1; Jeremiah 8:13, 24:1-10), and this parable is perhaps meant to indicate that Jesus will work on the Jews for a little while longer, before cutting them off as a lost case and opening the Kingdom wholeheartedly to the Gentiles. Through this parable, believers are reminded of the patience of a God, who is willing to give sinners chance after chance to reform their lives and to seek reconciliation. Even when sinners waste or refuse those chances, God, in His mercy, allows still more opportunities for them to repent. And, just as the farmer tended the barren fig tree with special care, so God affords sinners whatever graces they need to leave their sinful ways behind and return to God’s love and embrace. Divine grace is expressed as justice with compassion, and judgment with mercy. But we cannot continue to draw strength and sustenance from God without producing fruit. God does not tolerate this type of “spiritual barrenness.” The “fruit” God wants consists of acts of self-giving love done for others. These are the spiritual and the corporal works of mercy that we’re called to do out of love for God and others. Jesus warns that the Galileans died “by the malice of some human being” and the eighteen died by chance, but the fig tree “will die expressly because of inactivity and unproductiveness.” However, the gardener is asking mercy for the disobedient fig tree. Is that what Jesus is doing when he warns us we will perish if we don’t repent?
Life Messages: 1) We need to live lives of repentance, a) because we never know when we will meet a tragedy of our own. Let us repent while we have the chance. Let us turn to Christ, acknowledge our faults and failings and receive from him mercy, forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. There is no better way to take these words of Jesus to heart than to go to sacramental confession, and there is no better time to go to confession than during Lent. We are unable to predict when a tragic accident may happen to us. Our end may come swiftly – without warning and without giving us an opportunity to repent; (b) because repentance helps us in life and in death. It helps us to live as forgiven people and helps us to face death without fear. When we repent, we are saying: “I’ve been going in the wrong direction – I must turn my life around.” Repentance begins with an admission of our sin and inadequacy. We cannot see Jesus in all his fullness unless we look at Him through the lens of repentance. Scripture says repentance results in forgiveness, renewal, and redirection. Repentance is a statement of regret for the inner condition of our souls, with a determination to have that condition changed.
2) We need to be fruitful trees in God’s orchard. Lent is an ideal time “to dig around and manure” the tree of our life so that it may bring forth fruits. The “fruits” God expects from us during Lent are repentance, renewal of life and the resulting virtues of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, selflessness and humble service. Let us start producing these fruits in the family by becoming more sensitive to the feelings of others and by accepting each member of the family with love and respect. The Christian fruit of reconciliation will grow in the family when each member shows good will by forgiving others and by asking their forgiveness. We become fruit-bearing in the community by caring for the poor, the sick, the little ones, the old, and the lonely.
3) We need to make the best use of the “second chances” God gives us. Our merciful Father always gives us a second chance. The prodigal son, returning to the father, was welcomed as a son, not treated as a slave. The repentant Peter was made the head of the Church. The persecutor Paul was made the apostle to the Gentiles. During Lent, we, too, are given another chance to repent and return to our Heavenly Father’s love. We are also expected to give others another chance when they ask our forgiveness. God would like to use each one of us as the “gardener” in the parable to help Him cultivate our families and communities and enrich them with grace. Let us thank God for using others to help us bear fruit. Grace is everywhere. Let us always cooperate with grace, especially during Lent.
JOKE OF THE WEEK:
#1 Pastor’s temptation and policeman’s forgiveness: In a large city, a priest parked his car in a no-parking zone because he couldn’t find a metered space. He put a note under the windshield wiper that read: “I have circled the block 100 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. Forgive us our trespasses.” When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note: “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job. “Lead us not into temptation.”
#2: Restitution with a hook to IRS: Nicky Gumbel tells us of a man who sent a check to the government for back taxes with a note attached that said: “I felt so guilty for cheating on my taxes I had to send you this check. If I don’t feel any better, I’ll send you the rest.”
# 3: Horrible mistake: There is the story of a young woman who talked to her pastor about the sin of pride. She said, “Every Sunday I come to church and look around and think to myself that I am the prettiest girl in the church. I try to stop but I just can’t. Am I horribly sinful?” The minister looked at her and said, “No dear, not horribly sinful; just horribly mistaken.”
#4: What do you say when someone around you sneezes? Most of us will quickly say ” God Bless You ” or “Gesundheit” (which is the German word for Good Health). Have you ever wondered why we say “God Bless You” when someone sneezes? Jewish sages tell us that it has to do with an ancient belief that the Lord just blessed that person with another day here on His earth.
# 5: Now I know: One lady told me, “Preacher, I never knew what suffering was until I heard you preach. Now I know.” Some preaching and some teaching is like suffering.
WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
- The Tablet: International Catholic Magazine: http://www.thetablet.co.uk/issue/1000103
- Alphabetical Index of Saints: http://saints.sqpn.com/alphabetical-list/
- # Weekly Guide for Daily prayer guide: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Prayer/
- Catholic newsbreak: http://www.catholictv.org/shows; Lenten reflections: http://thecatholicguy.tv/lent2016/
- Text week homilies: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk13a.htm
19- Additional anecdotes
(“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. Jesus did it. He called his stories ‘parables.'”(Janet Litherland, Storytelling from the Bible). In fact, Mark 4:34 says, “he [Jesus] did not speak to them without a parable…” Read the article: Picturing the Kingdom of God by Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR: http://www.appleseeds.org/picture.htm)
# 1: Mary Brenner’s burning bush: In the 1980’s Mary Brenner was a divorced mother of seven children who owned a carbon paper manufacturing company in Beverly Hills. She was a friend of all the movie stars, went to their parties, and hobnobbed with celebrities. What turned her around, and made her see life differently? She came across a very touching photograph of the Holocaust. Among the people in the photograph there was a young boy facing a Nazi soldier who was pointing a rifle at him. The child’s eyes showed deep fear and bewilderment. Mary Benner looked at that photograph and suddenly realized that life could never be the same for her. She felt an enormous compassion for all those who were victims of brutality, for those who were the most marginalized. She went to the Bishop of San Diego and said, “I’d like to belong to some kind of a religious order and dedicate myself to those people nobody else seems to care for.” She wound up being called Sister Antonio, and working with the women in the Tijuana Prison, a women’s prison in Mexico. These inmates of the prison were among the most abject, forlorn, and neglected segment of humanity. Sister Antonio became their friend, companion, sister, and mother all in one. That holocaust picture was Mary Brenner’s burning bush. Today’s first reading speaks of a similar conversion happened to Moses.
# 2: “I am guilty, and I deserve to be here.” There is a story of how King Frederick II, an Eighteenth-Century King of Prussia, was visiting a prison in Berlin. He was going from inmate to inmate, and every one of them was trying to prove how they had been unjustly imprisoned. They all proclaimed their innocence, except one. That one prisoner was sitting quietly in a corner, while all the rest protested their innocence. Seeing him sitting there oblivious to everything else that was going on, the King walked over to him and said, “Son, why are you in here?” He said, “Armed robbery, your Honor,” The King said, “Are you guilty?” He said, “Sire, I am guilty, and I deserve to be here.” The King then gave an order to the guard and said, “Release this guilty man, I do not want this man corrupting all these other innocent people.” Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ call to repentance.
# 3: The Mission is a 1986 film which tells the story of a Spanish Jesuit priest who went into the South American jungle to convert the enslaved natives who had been subjected to the cruelty of Portuguese colonials. One of the most telling scenes in this film occurs when Captain Mendoza, who had killed his brother in a fit of rage, is seen climbing a mountain with a backpack on his shoulders as an act of penance for his past sins. The backpack, which contained all the weapons of his former life as a slave merchant, was so heavy that he could not climb higher unless he gave up the backpack. He was relieved of it when one of the natives, whom he had formerly taken into slavery, forgave him and cut the rope of the backpack with a sharp knife. Thus, he saved Mendoza’s life instead of taking vengeance. The backpack represents sin. We cannot carry our “packs” of sin with us. Until we repent, are forgiven and let them go, “we cannot climb to where God needs us.” This scene in the movie illustrates today’s readings, which tell us of a merciful God who wants sinners to repent and who uses natural calamities and tragedies in life as loving warnings to awaken His children.
# 4: Remodeling our house in Lent: The Dallas Morning News carried a photo of some prisoners on a work-release program. They were restoring a condemned house on the city’s west side. Several days later one of the prisoners wrote the editor, saying: “Thank you for the coverage… The last time my name and photograph were printed in a newspaper took place the day I was sentenced… So it was a real joy to see my picture in your paper doing something good… When I entered prison 18 months ago, I was a lot like the house we just remodeled… But God took charge of my life and has made me a new creation in Christ.” Faithful observance Lent helps us too to remodel our lives. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
# 5: Author of the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson left instructions that his tombstone was to mention that he was the author of the Declaration of Independence. It was to make no reference to the fact that he was the third President of the United States. The distinguished gentleman from Monticello, Virginia was attempting to make a very serious point. What one’s title or titles are is really of no account. But what one accomplishes in one’s life is of supreme importance. Our greatest accomplishment in Lent is the renewal of life by repentance and acts of charity. (Fr. James Gilhooley).
# 6: Nuclear disaster: The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in Pripyat in northern Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Union, then part of Russia. It is the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history and the only level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale. It resulted in a severe release of radioactivity following a massive explosion destroying the reactor. Most fatalities from the accident were caused by radiation poisoning. The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and Northern Europe with some nuclear rain falling as far away as Ireland. The World Health Organization (WHO), attributed 56 direct deaths (47 accident workers, and nine children with thyroid cancer), and estimated that there may be 4,000 extra cancer deaths among the approximately 600,000 most highly exposed people. (Wikipedia). Citing two tragic incidents in today’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts the Jews to repent of their sins and reform their lives.
# 7: Cut it down: Baseball fans may recognize the name, Brett Butler. According to Greg Johnson in an article in Youth Magazine (May 1993), p. 27-28, Butler was a tiny kid that all the rest of the guys picked on. Butler did not have a fun youth. “Every day for two years,” Brett says, “the other kids in junior high would chase me around the playground and try to pull my underwear up above my pants. I would run and run and finally just run home. Every day.” For Brett, the perils of being small didn’t end at age twelve. When he played football in high school, they had to go to the junior high school to get his pads because he was so small. He played quarterback and had to roll out just to see over the offensive line. His voice was so high that it cracked when he called the signals, and the opposition would laugh. But his dad told him something he never forgot: “If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.” That motivated him to give his best. His high school baseball coach ridiculed him when Brett had the nerve to say he wanted to play baseball at Arizona State (one of the top baseball colleges in the country). But Brett grabbed his glove and went off to Arizona State anyway. He wound up as the leading hitter on their junior varsity team but was not offered the scholarship he desperately wanted. So, he went off to tiny Southeastern Oklahoma State where he eventually became a two-time All-American. In 1979 he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves organization — in the twenty-third round! Brett is 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighs 156 pounds, and wears size 7 shoes (the smallest in baseball). Today Brett is with the L.A. Dodgers. Everyone takes Brett seriously now. He’s recognized as the best bunter in baseball. He steals more than forty bases a year and scores over a hundred runs as well. In 1990 he led the league with 160 singles and 288 times on base. Brett made the All-Star team in 1991 and was in the top ten in hitting in 1992. Plus, he hits into double plays only about every two hundred times at bat. He’s every manager’s dream for a lead-off hitter. Did Brett Butler make it to the major leagues on the basis of pure athletic ability? Of course not. Here is the secret truth that we need to tell every young person in this land: “The very best work harder.” It’s true in sports, in business, in music, in every endeavor in life. The secret of life is passion, determination, desire. Jesus told a parable about a man who owned a vineyard. In that vineyard was a fig tree ” a fig tree that had no fruit on it. “Cut it down,” the owner said to his vinedresser. “For three years I have been looking for fruit on this tree and have found none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?”
# 8: Second chancers: History is full of individuals who had their first, second and many other chances before they succeeded. Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded. Beethoven’s teacher called him hopeless as a composer, but he succeeded. Having gone out of business, Colonel Sanders went over 1,000 places trying to sell his chicken recipe before he found a buyer. Years later, at the age of 75, Colonel Sanders sold his Kentucky Fried Chicken company for 15 million dollars! Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Disney also went bankrupt several times before he before he built Disneyland. Charles Darwin, father of the theory of evolution, was considered a very ordinary boy. Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” The University of Bern turned down his Ph.D. dissertation as being irrelevant and fanciful. Enrico Caruso was told by one music teacher, “You can’t sing. You have no voice at all.” Yet he became of the best-loved singers of his time. (Fr. Botelho).
# 9: “We call such punishment “God’s justice.” During the 1987 Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, a bomb planted by the IRA exploded, killing eleven people and injuring sixty-three others. One of those killed was a nurse named Marie Wilson whose father, Gordon Wilson, was also injured in the explosion and was with his daughter when she died. In media interviews, Gordon Wilson gave a moving account of his daughter’s death, but said quite clearly that he forgave her killers. That statement, and Gordon Wilson’s quiet dignity, had a profound effect on many people in Northern Ireland. He was later involved in activities to improve community relations in Enniskillen and eventually was appointed to the Irish Republic Senate. Gordon Wilson was a rare example of what we all understand by Christian forgiveness in a world which demands and expects punishment for sins and crimes. When our loved ones have been violated in some way, our cry is not for forgiveness, but for vengeance. On those occasions when a convicted criminal receives a reduced or lenient sentence, there is invariably a cry of outrage from the victim’s family. If someone has caused untold suffering to an individual, then the community, especially that part of it close to the victim, requires that the criminal suffer too. It is felt that this will ease the pain of the community. We call such punishment “God’s justice.” Today’s Gospel, however, teaches us that Jesus views such incidents as God’s invitation to the sinner for repentance and renewal of life. (Fr. Tony)
# 10: Lisa Beamer. (http://www.msnbc.com/news/801472.asp?) You will remember that she is the wife of Todd Beamer the man who said, “Let’s Roll!” on flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, September 11, 2001.. The article pointed out how she has had to conduct herself as a hero by day and battle anxiety and an incalculable sense of loss by night. She said her downstairs closet was crammed with things she never wanted to own, letters and postcards, songs and poems from strangers, and homemade “Let’s Roll!” mementos. Two veterans even sent her their purple hearts. Lisa calls the storage space her “surreal closet.” Upstairs in her bedroom is the “real Todd” closet, where his clothes still hang, where she can still smell his presence. Any of us who has lost a loved one can identify with Mrs. Beamer. But coping with the pain is complicated when the death seems unnecessary or when death comes to those who are young.
# 11: “Go home and love your spouse and your children.” Mother Teresa was once asked by an inquiring reporter what people could do to bring about World Peace and improve the conditions of our world. Without hesitation she said, “Go home and love your spouse and your children.” Mother Teresa is so greatly admired and respected because she feasts on forgiveness. Bitterness has no place in her soul and spirit. Fast from bitterness and you’ll get rid of half the medication you are presently taking!
# 12: Never give up: Because God never gives up on us, we need never give up. From the many true and apocryphal stories about the life of Winston Churchill comes the report of a singular commencement address. After enduring a lengthy introduction, Churchill reportedly rose from his seat, strode to the podium and stared fixedly at his audience of new graduates. “Never give up!” he pronounced solemnly. Churchill then turned, walked back to his chair and sat down. As the stunned students momentarily sat in silence, Churchill, with perfect timing, once again rose from his chair, returned to the podium and again announced, “Never give up!” Now, terrified they might respond improperly, the audience never uttered a squeak as their speaker once again returned to his seat. Sure enough, Churchill returned to the podium again, and again and yet again – five times – each time delivering his single-minded message, “Never give up!” At last, feeling he had exhausted his audience and driven home his point, Churchill himself did give up and returned to the podium no more. But you can be sure that no graduate in that audience ever forgot that speech or forgot that he or she must “never give up!”
# 13: But God never gave up: God has promised never to give up on us. All of the Scriptures Old and New Testaments together are a record of how God never, never, never, never, never gives up.
– Adam and Eve disobeyed the very First Rule. But God never gave up.
– Abraham wandered, and Sarah laughed. But God never gave up.
– Moses hid and shook with fear. But God never gave up.
– Saul went insane. But God never gave up.
– David plotted against Uriah. But God never gave up.
– Ahaz sold out to Assyria. But God never gave up.
– Israel fell into pieces. But God never gave up.
– The Jewish people became exiles. But God never gave up.
– John the Baptist was beheaded. But God never gave up.
– Peter denied he even knew Jesus, and Judas betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. But God never gave up.
– The disciples all ran away. But God never gave up.
# 14: Second chance: In August of 1989, one month after Donny Moore shot himself, another baseball player, also a pitcher, Dave Dravecky returned to the pitcher’s mound with the San Francisco Giants, after having undergone surgery the preceding October that removed a cancerous tumor and half of a major muscle in his arm, a muscle instrumental in pitching a baseball. His doctors told Dravecky that while his cancer was not life-threatening, it was career ending. They told him that he would be lucky to play catch with his children. But Dravecky fooled his doctors. He returned to pitch for the San Francisco Giants and in his first game in Candlestick Park, pitching to the Cincinnati Reds, he held them to three runs of four hits in eight innings. He struck out five and walked one. Through seven of those eight innings he allowed only one hit, and when he was relieved for the ninth inning, he was given a thunderous ovation by the San Francisco fans who were visibly moved by his inspiring example.
In an emotional post-game press conference, Dravecky answered one question and then waved his hand and said, “Before we go any further, I want to say that I give all praise to Jesus Christ! Without Him, there is no story!” (The Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1989)
# 15: “And this nice lady wants to buy the other half!”: There is a funny story about the produce clerk in the grocery store who was confronted by a woman who wanted to buy half a grapefruit. “But we don’t sell half a grapefruit, ma’am,” he insisted. She persisted, until finally the clerk went over to his manager – – unaware that the customer had followed him. “Sir, there’s a crazy lady over there who wants to buy half a grapefruit.” Then, turning around and seeing the customer right behind him, he added, “and this nice lady wants to buy the other half!” As the woman walked away in triumph, the manager said to the produce clerk, “That was a good recovery! You’re very sharp. Where are you from anyway?” “I’m from St. Louis,” came the reply, the home of ugly women and great football teams.” Is that so?” said the manager. “Well, my wife happens to be from St. Louis.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the clerk asked, “What position did she play?” Thank God for moments of recovery and opportunity to begin again! That’s the dominant theme of the Gospel – – that’s the nature of God – – giving us the opportunity to begin again.
16) Where was God on September 11, 2001? : Once in every lifetime something happens on the world stage, which shapes the course of human events. One such event occurred on the morning of Sept 11, 2001. Consider for a moment what was set in motion by the terrorist attacks of that day: Our nation’s capital was attacked. A plane was crashed by its passengers to prevent a terrorist attack on the White House. The Manhattan skyline was irrevocably changed because the financial trade center for 150 nations was completely destroyed. Over 3000 people lost their lives. The world’s economy was greatly tested. We waged a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. But, a long-standing almost invisible war will be fought for years to come around the world. That’s the big picture, and it says nothing of the tens of thousands of people here and abroad whose lives were changed. Try to calculate the human toll emotionally and spiritually and you cannot. Only God can weigh such matters. But we try in feeble ways to understand. Events like these raise fundamental questions. Why is there so much evil in the world? Why do innocent people suffer? I even saw an article in the secular press titled: “Where was God on September 11, 2001?”
17) Sin and tragedy: Pastors often encounter people who have suffered tragedy that they imagine to be caused by their guilt. This text calls us to balance two opposing ideas: • On the one hand, tragedy sometimes strikes randomly, as it did in the case of the Galileans and the eighteen Jerusalemites. In such cases, it has nothing to do with guilt. The tornado that destroys a nightclub also destroys a church—kills both the town drunk and a Sunday school teacher. However, our repentance stands us in good stead when we experience unavoidable tragedy. It prepares us to live victoriously in the face of tragedy, and it also prepares us for death. • On the other hand, sin sometimes leads to tragedy. Drunk drivers kill innocent people. Abusive people injure their spouses and children. Not all tragedy is the result of sin, but some is. Perhaps the best way to visualize this is a small circle inside a large circle. The large circle is all tragedy. The small circle is tragedy caused by our sin. We cannot prevent random tragedy—that which lies outside the small circle—but Christ calls us to repent, so that we might avoid the self-imposed tragedy of the small circle. (sermonwriter.com).
18) The oldest tree- Great Basin bristlecone pine: Do you know what the oldest living thing on earth is? It is a Great Basin bristlecone pine. Pinus longaeva is a long-living species of bristlecone pine tree found in the higher mountains of California, Nevada, and Utah. One member of this species, at 5,068 years old, is the oldest known living non-clonal organism on Earth. Bristlecones are hardly worth a glance, and you probably wouldn’t give them a thought if you came across one. They aren’t large and green and beautiful in the sense we normally think of trees. They are stunted and warped and gnarled and look half dead – and they are! They have their own unique kind of beauty – like a gnarled up old man or women. Their claim to fame is not size or how much fruit they produce or their magnificent beauty; it is longevity. They reach the age they do by clinging to life in drought or flood, fire or famine, in the harshest of conditions. They adapt by dying a little. As the tree ages, much of its bark may die. Very old specimens often leave only a narrow strip of living tissue to connect the roots to the handful of live branches. It prunes itself, so to speak, and rids itself of all unnecessary branches that would sap its strength and make it unfruitful. It reminds us of Jesus’ parable when He says “He cuts off every branch that is unfruitful.” The bristlecone pine continues to be fruitful and is able to reproduce itself even though it is gnarled and old. Being fruitful and growth are expected in a bristlecone pine – and in the Christian, as well. We are to keep growing; keep striving; keep living spiritually in spite of our external circumstances. The winds of life may be harsh; the soil may be lacking; our experiences may be devastating – but we are to endure anyway. Jesus said, “They that endure to the end will be saved.” We need to, not just hang on, but grow and thrive. (Rev. Andy Gorossman).
19) National prayer of forgiveness: “Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the airwaves with profanity and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your
will… Amen (Rev. Bob Russell).
(Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, he was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. But this beautiful prayer caused a lot of media attention and controversy. SOURCE: http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/kansasprayer.htm (L-19)
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 17) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit thiswebsite: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for missed or previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.