3rd Sunday of Lent Year C – 16
Ex. 3:1-8, 13-5; 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 10-2; Lk.13:1-9
As we enter the Third Week of Lent, we continue on our journey of repentance in preparation for the approach of the Feast of Easter. Knowing that Jesus triumphed over the temptations in the desert, we are reminded that we too can triumph through our living faith in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, today, it is appropriate to look at the nature of sin. By understanding how offensive it is to the eyes of God, we are then equipped with sufficient knowledge to decide if we will walk in His Holy ways or if we will reject His Divine grace in exchange for the sinful path of life.
* “Doctor, Doctor, You’ve got to help me – I just can’t stop my hands from shaking!” “Do you drink a lot?” “Not really – I split most of it!” That is the reason I have come to you.
* Officer to driver going the wrong way up a one-way street, “And where do you think you are going up?” Driver: – “I’m not sure, but I must be late as everyone is coming back.”
Do you know what the indisputable truth about human beings is? It is our infinite capacity to mess up. We are mistake prone humans.
First of all, I must ask, is there such a thing as a good sin? To answer that question, one must know the definition of sin. Sin is a transgression (offense) against God. It is a crime against God! Why is it a crime against God? It is a crime against God because it is a rejection of God’s Holy ways. Sin is the outcome of one’s decision to have “his way” or “no way!” That is why a sin is a crime against God.
Now, I ask, is there such a thing as a good crime? Is one crime better than another? Is an assault on someone better than a robbery? Is adultery better than murder? Is lying better than stealing? Is disobedience better than being a party to an abortion?
During today’s reading of the Gospel, Jesus addressed the nature of sin. He asked, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?” [Lk.13:2] “Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?” [Lk.13:4]
What did Jesus answer? He said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” [Lk.13:5] In other words, a sin is a sin! There is no such thing as a big sin versus a small sin. Nor is there such a thing as a good sin versus a bad sin. A sin is a sin! If you offend God, then you have offended God! You cannot walk away and say, “I did not offend God because it was a small sin.” Nor can you say, “It is no big deal because it was a small sin.” A sin is a transgression against God. To sin is to offend God, to reject His holy ways!
During today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus gave a parable about the fig tree. Why did this parable immediately follow after Jesus explained that sin is offensive to God, that it deserves severe punishment? It is because Jesus wanted to point out the sin of indifference, the sin of neglect of one’s responsibilities towards God.
I think we know the parable that Jesus told, about a fig tree planted in his vineyard.
In this parable, Jesus was talking about those who are indifferent to their salvation. He was talking about those who refuse to live their faith in Christ by performing good works.
The man who planted the vineyard is the Lord Jesus. The fig tree in the garden is one of many. We Christians each represent one fig tree. Each fig tree is expected to bear fruit that represent the good works and virtues of those who help to build the Body of Christ. Such good works can be inside or outside the parish. Some are called to teach Sunday School in the parish while others are called to witness to their co-workers in the working world. Each must answer his calling according to where he has been sent by God.
Near the end of the Reading, we heard that the gardener begged mercy on behalf of the fig tree. He promised to nourish the tree in the hope of awakening (reviving/rekindling) it so it will produce fruit.
Who is this gardener that begged mercy of the man? In John 15:1, we learn that God the Father is the Vine grower. He is the One who removes every branch that bears no fruit. [Jn.15:2] Jesus is the true Vine Who gives life. Unless one abides in Jesus, he cannot bear fruit because apart from Him, they can do nothing. [Jn. 15:5] In other words, Jesus is the Gardener.
Based on this knowledge, we learn that Jesus, as our Mediator [1.Tim.2:5] begs the Heavenly Father to have mercy on behalf of those who do not bear fruit.
Some may ask, “If the fruits are also synonym to virtues, what are these virtues that should be on the fig tree.” They are the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. [Gal.5:22-3]
What does it mean when it is said that one does not bear fruit? It means that they are doing the work of the flesh: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these. [Gal. 5:19-21] As Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Galatians, “I am warning you, as I warned you before; those who do these things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” [Gal. 5:21] These are the fig trees that bear no fruit.
During today’s First Reading from the Book of Exodus, we heard that God observed the misery of His people. He heard their cries on account of their taskmasters. [Ex. 3:7] And so He went to deliver them from the Egyptians. [Ex. 3:8]
During the Second Reading that provided us with more information about God’s people, we learn that God did free His people from slavery. They all ate the same spiritual food. They all drank the same spiritual drink. But, even thought they were God’s people, he was not pleased with most of them. And He struck them down in the wilderness. [1 Cor. 10:2-5]
Why did God strike them down? These things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. [1Cor.10:6] And we should not complain about this righteousness of God. Those who complained in the days of Moses, they were destroyed by the Destroyer. [1Cor.10:10]
As St. Paul said, these things happened to serve as an example. And they were written down to instruct us. So, if we think we are standing, we better watch out that we do not fall. [1Cor.10:11-2]
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask, do you think that some of those in the days of Moses were worse sinners and that is why God struck them down? Do you think that some of those in the days of St. Paul were worse sinners and that is why they were denied the Kingdom of God? I say no! The sins that are committed today are the same sins that were committed in the days of Moses and St. Paul! Because of those specific sins, God struck some down and denied them the eternal Kingdom of joy and peace.
In conclusion, we should ask ourselves, is God using this Lenten Season to shower an abundance of grace upon us through Jesus Christ so we will repent of our sins? Is this our last year on earth? After all, none of us knows when the Father shall call us to answer before Him. In the hope of being united together one day as brothers and sisters in the Heavenly Kingdom of God, let us all prepare ourselves by repenting of our sins.