UNLESS YOU REPENT ……
(A biblical reflection on the 3rd Sunday of Lent [Year C], 28 February 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 13:1-9
First Reading: Exodus 3:1-8,13-15; Psalms: Psalm 103:1-4,6-8,11; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12
There were some present at that very time who told Him 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, ‘Lo, 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 it about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:1-9)
Again and again, Jesus warns us, that it is not for us to judge people and their sins. No one but God really knows what is in the human heart. Rather than judge the victims of tragedies or their perceived causes, we should learn from experience by allowing the tragedy or misfortune to remind us that we must face eternal damnation unless we reform, unless we are really repentant. “… unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).
What we are warned against is the feeling of complacency. Paul (in the second reading: 1 Corinthians 10) takes the example of the chosen people who were miraculously fed and protected in the desert. They knew they had been chosen by God. However, they failed Him. They lulled themselves in a spirit of complacency in which they felt that everything was in good order with their lives, that God would take care of them no matter what they did or did not do. Their complacent attitude caused them to commit idolatry and sexual immorality which made them fall into deep disfavor with God.
We are the new chosen people. In baptism we have passed through a new exodus. We are believers, yet as the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy exhorts: “To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and repentance.” We cannot afford to be complacent of be satisfied with our present situation. We must keep on growing. Indeed God is patient with us and will give us many opportunities to improve ourselves.
The parable of the fig tree conveys that message. But notice also that Jesus warns that if the fig tree does not bear fruit in good time, then it will be cut down. Unless we confront them, we will never know happiness, inner peace, security. Instead of ignoring the warning from the Word of God, we would do well to heed its message – before it is too late.
God affords us this season of Lent as a grace to be repentant. Instead of covering up our faults, instead of lying and subterfuging, let us face reality. Repentance is neither self-flogging nor breast-beating and then returning to our old self afterwards. We must change ourselves in a positive and permanent way not just for 40 days but will continue even after Lent had ended. This is the real meaning of renewal.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, may I experience You wrapping Your arms around me in mercy, love, and healing. Amen.
Jakarta, 26 February 2016
A Christian Pilgrim