Daily Reflection
March 14th, 2004
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.


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 taken in.

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 me?”

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 life.

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 heard.

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. 25

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