3rd Sunday of Lent (C) March 3 2013
A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
B. Reflection & Dialogue:
Theme of readings:
First Reading (Exodus 3:1-8, 13-14). The Lord said to Moses: “I am who I am”. Because his life was in danger, Moses fled from Egypt to the land of Midian, and married a daughter of Jethro, a priest of Midian. As Moses was looking after Jethro’s sheep, he came one day to the sacred mountain, called Horeb in one biblical tradition, Sinai in another. There he had an encounter with God which is central to the entire biblical tradition. First we are told that it was “the angel of the Lord” that appeared to Moses. In the Pentateuch mention is occasionally made of “the angel of the Lord” when it is clear that it God himself who is intended, and it is clear that this is the case here. In the Bible God is often mentioned as manifesting himself to mortals in fire or in the flame of fire. Why a burning bush is mentioned in this instance is not clear. Here Moses is called by God to a mission, as prophets will later be. Removing one’s shoes at a sacred place is a custom attested among Jews, Muslims and Buddhists. God revealed himself to Moses as the God of the patriarchs (Fathers) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but never made known his name to them. He made a promise to Abraham about his numerous descendants and the possession of the Promised Land, and is now about to fulfil that promise, as he has seen their sufferings in Egypt. When asked by Moses to reveal his name to him, the name that God gives himself is “I am who I am”, in Hebrew “Ehyeh”, from which the word Yahweh, the name of the God of Israel comes. Ehyeh in Hebrew means “I am” or “I will be”. The fundamental meaning of this divine name, then, is that God is there eternally, in the past, present and future, present not in any abstract sense but actively with his people, with humanity, bringing enlightenment with regard to his own nature, to the individual’s human nature, to humanity on its origin and destiny, to bring life and bring it abundantly.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 102 ). The Lord is compassion and love.
Second Reading (1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12). The life of the people under Moses was written down to be a lesson for us. Paul spoke repeatedly to the young Church at Corinth on the numerous gifts conferred on them by Christ and his Spirit. They were richly endowed by divine gifts in many ways, But this community also had its weaknesses, and certain practices which were at variance with belief and behaviour proper to followers of Christ. Even the celebration of the Eucharist was not beyond serious reproach, as Paul will tell them later in this same letter. One weakness may have been that they concentrated so much on divine love and the free gifts given them by God that they had tended to forget their own shortcomings and sins, and the other basic Christian truth that God punishes such failures. They seem to have had a keen awareness that they, in some sense, were the new Israel, and had a good knowledge of the biblical history of Israel, particularly of the Egyptian bondage, the crossing of the Red Sea, the desert wanderings and the gifts of water and the manna. These latter were types of Christian baptism and the Eucharist. The desert wanderings, however, had another side, that of Israel’s sins, its “murmurings”, complaints, against Moses and against God, sins of idolatry and sexual excesses. The Bible also recounted how the people who so sinned were punished severely by God. Paul recounts this history, using a Christian terminology: the Israelites were baptized into Moses and the cloud. Using a Jewish tradition, rather than the biblical text, Paul speaks of a well (dispensing water) following them in the wilderness, and interprets it of Christ. Paul reminds the Corinthians, and all of us, that this Old Testament account has a message for all of us. God still punishes sins and failings. Christians should be aware of all this, and of human weakness and the temptation to self reliance. “Those who think they are safe must be careful that they do not fall”.
Gospel (Luke 13:1-9). Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. This passage of Luke’s Gospel has been chosen to remind us of two of the messages of Lent: Christ’s call to repentance and also God’s patience and longsuffering. The first part is built around two rumours then current on Galilee concerning deaths in Jerusalem, either through Pilate’s malice or through accident. Arising out of a belief that tragedy was connected with personal sin, questions arose as to whether these were greater sinners than others, Jesus implicitly replies in the negative, but calls for the need of repentance for all. Some readers may note that the first group is mentioned as being possibly “more sinners that others”, the latter “more guilty”. The word behind “guilty” here in the Aramaic language spoken by Jesus would have been “debtors”, which in this context simply means “sinners”.
The meaning of the parable in the second part of this reading is quite clear: God calls for repentance but is patient with sinners.
B. Reflection & Dialogue with Questions of the Day
God is love, but he cannot condone wrongdoing
That God is love is beyond doubt. As the response in the Responsorial Psalm in today’s Mass says: “The Lord is compassion and love”. The evidence of both the Old and the New Testaments bear abundant witness to God’s love for the human race, for each individual. From the New Testament we need mention only the Paul’s letters and the fourth Gospel. In public discourse today the love and mercy of Jesus are often contrasted which what is perceived as the harsh, unbending attitude of the official, institutional, Catholic Church.
However, if we are to properly assess both the Old and New Testaments we need to reflect on the purpose of the revelation of the One who said “I am who I am” as he revealed himself to Moses, and of Jesus the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, in the New. In the covenant with Moses God gave commandments and precepts to be followed. Jesus came to bring life to the individual and the human race, and to give life abundantly. But central to Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom is: “Repent and believe in the Gospel, in the Good News”.
These are some truths that merit reflection in these our days of cultural and moral revolution. The message of Lent holds good for all times. It calls on believers to repent and return to Gospel values. Gospel values can scarcely be appreciated without contact with the living Christ, living among us, in particular in the Eucharist. Paul’s words still ring true for us all: “Those who think they are safe must be careful that they do not fall”. And while God remains love itself, we still have lessons to learn from early Israel in the desert, when many of them failed to please God.