Sunday, March 20 User Guide
Sunday March 20 is the third Sunday of Lent (year C). Mass readings: Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9.
Today’s Gospel contains a necessary balance. It speaks of God’s patience and care now, but also of the day of judgment, the Day of Judgment. On that day, our “case” will be judged by God; the decision is final — there is no turning back. Let’s look at this Gospel in two main parts:
Proclamation of the problem
The Gospel opens: “Some people spoke to Jesus of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus answered them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way, they were more sinners than all the other Galileans? Never ! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish like them!
What Jesus is saying is that it is so easy for us to focus on the sins of others and not discern our own need for repentance and mercy. Each of us needs boats full of grace and mercy.
And so to our all too pressing question, “What about theirLord?” Jesus replies, “What about you? Stay in your own lane; work out your own problems and leave their final fate to me. Punishment doesn’t just come to others; if you are not careful, it will also come to you.
He adds: “If you do not repent, you will all perish like them!
The representation of the process
The Lord then tells a parable that lays out the process we are currently engaged in: a process of patience and mercy that ultimately leads to the finality of judgment. Note the following steps:
Evaluation: “Once upon a time there was a person who had planted a fig tree in his orchard, and when he came to look for fruit on it and found none, he said to the gardener: ‘For three years I have come to look for fruit on this tree and couldn’t find any. So cut it. Why should he exhaust the soil?
Faith is a tree that bears fruit.
It is to bear the fruits of love, justice and keeping the commandments.
The Lord looks for these fruits and often by our conscience and by His word assesses whether such fruits are present.
Assistance: The text goes on to describe the gardener’s prayers and requests: “Sir, leave him for this year too. I will till the ground around and fertilize it. This could bear fruit in the future.
The Lord, owner of the garden, not only grants the request, but will also be the one who will provide the necessary help to reap the patiently awaited fruits.
He sent his Son, established the Church, gave us the scriptures, the liturgy and the sacraments, and every other good grace we need.
Acceptance: The parable ends very simply with this line: “If not, you can reduce it.”
The word “acceptance” is used here with caution. Judgment is not so much Gods decision because it is his acceptance of our decision to bear fruit or refuse to bear fruit; to accept or refuse his offer of the fruits of faith, such as chastity, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, love of the poor, and appreciation of the truth.
Judgment Day is the day God accepts our final choice.
It is not so much the pronouncement of a sentence as the final recognition of the absolute choice which we did.
On that day, it is no longer possible for us to change. What we are remains fixed forever.