There IS A SPIRIT IN TODAY’S READINGS OF PREPARING FOR GROWTH.
Lent is such a time for us, preparing to hear and be changed by what we have
We can pray these days with the experiences of life, which alert us to our
need to grow. Not everything happens according to our schedule, our personal
ways. It takes humility to be surprised; it takes humility to accept that
we are not totally converted or mature.
I wrote the Reflection yesterday afternoon and near the end my computer died
taking with it to its grave, the Reflection along with everything else. Lent
happened. This version might be shorter, because of frustration partly, but
I am in need of growth, maturity and humility.
Moses is minding his own business and that of his sheep when he sees a strange
thing, a bush on fire which does not consume the bush. He approaches and
hears a voice. The voice calls Moses by name. God, not wishing to beat around
the bush, tells Moses directly who is calling him. God gives Moses a mission
of mercy and Moses asks the usual question. “Whom shall I say is sending
God gives Moses a simple set of credentials. God tells Moses to say that
Constant Mercy sends him. Constant is the name for the ever-calling, ever-attracting
God. Mystery is the God who comes close, but not too close, Moses has to
keep a safe distance and so does God. Constant Mystery is the great I Am.
Constant Mystery reveals the faithful mercy of God for God’s people in Egypt.
They have a future full of promise and Moses is sent to prepare them for
the fulfilling of God’s promised fidelity, a new and abundant land. The God
of their pasts is the God of their futures.
The Gospel opens with two news items from the times. The people come to wonder
about Pilate’s having mixed some blood of the Galaleans with the sacrificial
blood of the temple ritual. Jesus offers an item of his own. Eighteen people
died when a watchtower fell on them.
When such bad things happened to good people it was thought that they must
not have been that good. Calamities were seen as a punishment for sin. Jesus
uses these events to reverse this thinking. Luke’s Gospel uses often the
word “repent.” Jesus tells his listeners that there is something deeper to
which they should attend. Every day they should be preparing for a more fruitful
A famous Jewish Rabbi told his followers that they should repent the day
before they die. Jesus is telling us all to prepare for tomorrow by “repenting”
today. Terrible events around us are not merely consequences of somebody’s
being evil. Events are preparations to bring us the awareness that
we are not gods though we would like to be.
Jesus then uses a discussion-ending device, a parable. A simple story within
which is revealed salvation history. A man had a garden in which there is
a fig tree. For three years he came to gather fruit. Finding none, he tells
the gardener to chop it down. The gardener pleads to give it time, one more
year. He promises to dig around it and fertilize and if that does not produce
fruit then it can go into the fire. The tree has exhausted the soil and perhaps
the patience of the owner.
Jesus reveals his own mission of bringing about a more fruitful tree of humanity.
He is doing the digging and probing. His words and actions give nourishment
to the individual and communal tree. Jesus is the “one more year.”
When will this year end?
To “repent” is not merely to change our behavior. Repentance means changing
to what and to whom we have been listening. Actions flow from attitude and
our attitude towards ourselves comes from what we hear.
Jesus’ words about us, about others, about life are meant to change our images.
What tells you who you are. Who has told you who you are. Repent from listening
to strange voices and strange events. Moses look, saw, heard and he changed
his mind and heart from being a shepherd to a wise leader of God’s flock.
Repent means listening first and then acting according to how we have been
changed by what we hear.
I grew up in a totally Irish and Catholic setting. I heard my grandparents
relate their stories of coming from Ireland. I heard the songs, the
myths and was convinced that there really were “Wee Folks” if I only believed
and kept watchful. In time I had to “repent” from some of what I had
To whom we listen will determine what we hear and hence what we think. What
we think will flow out into our actions. The gardener is still at work fertilizing
our hearts and maturing us to be fruitful trees in his garden. We are invited
to listen to him and repent from foreign and violent voices.
“My eyes are ever fixed on the Lord, for
he releases my feet from the snare.” Ps.