24 March 20193 Lent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Lent

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent: There Is Still Time

Sometimes, when I speak with people preparing for marriage, I feel like a life insurance salesman. I tell them that you really need to have life insurance just in case something horrible happens. You would not want your wife or husband and children put out of your home and relying on charity because you didn't provide for the worst case scenario. The vast majority of the time, the young couple will agree with this, but sometimes I have the feeling that the couple is just "yessing me" to death, or agreeing with anything just "to keep the priest happy." One time a future bride told me in no uncertain terms that she did not want to consider this. They were too young to be concerned. There would be plenty of time later to worry about a medical disaster. They were probably too emotionally young to be married. Sadly, none of us can predict our future. All of us have to be prepared for the future. The Gospel reading for today speaks about sudden and sad tragedies that took place at the time of the Lord. Jesus uses these as a lesson for his disciples and for us.

He begins by noting the tragedies. One was an accident: a tower under construction fell in Siloam. Eighteen people, workers and bystanders, were killed. The second was an unprovoked attack. Pontius Pilate, yes that same Roman whom some want to turn into a victim of circumstances regarding the Lord's death, Pontius Pilate turned a Temple service into a bloodbath. The center of opposition to the Roman occupation of Israel was Galilee. The most adamant of the rebels were the members of a party called the Zealots. By the way, one of these men, Simon the Zealot, left his political agenda and became one of the twelve disciples and then apostles. Back to Pontius Pilate. Pilate heard that a large number of Galilean zealots had gathered in Jerusalem and would be attending a special Temple service. "Perhaps," Pilate's spies told him, "they would stir up the locals against Rome." Pilate decided to nip this in the bud. Only Jews were allowed in the Temple precincts. So Pilate had his soldiers dress as though they were Jews, and mingle in with the crowd. At a given signal, they attacked all those at the service, thus mixing their blood with their Temple sacrifices.

When people's lives come to a sudden end, whether it is through disease, an accident, due to violence or a natural disaster, we all ask questions like: "Where is God? Has God lost control? Doesn't he recognize what is happening to his people?" Jesus says in the Gospel for today, "God knows, but the time is not yet ready for him to come to judge all people, to protect the innocent victims of evil in the world and to bring evildoers to their just ends. Just as the farmer gives the fig tree one more chance to bear fruit, God gives mankind in general and us in particular a little more time to change our ways." Then He will come with power, the power of His Name. Then all people will recognize Him just as the Pharaoh of Egypt was forced to recognize whom God was after Moses proclaimed God's name. When the power of God is revealed then we, "who are no longer under a cloud of uncertainly as our ancestors of the Old Testament times were," as St. Paul says in today's second reading, then we will stand before God and present ourselves to Him.

But for now we still have time. It is Lent, the time for us to face up to the evil that is around us and within us. Let me briefly reflect on a psychological aspect of evil. History has clearly shown that the more we participate in evil, the less we notice its existence. Those who ran the death camps of Nazi Germany were so used to arbitrarily choosing individuals for death that many of these murderers had no recognition of the evil of their actions. Those who run the sleazy halls of our society take no responsibility in their actions. Closer to home, the guy at school or at work who treats girls like objects for his lust, motivated by both selfishness and porn, you know the guy usually referred to as "a jerk", or the girl at school or at work who is perfectly happy with using her sexuality to fill her lust and to achieve whatever else she wants, and there are words we use for her that need not be said, these people have become so used to their own immorality, even so comfortable with it, that they take no responsibility for their actions. "Everyone does this. There is nothing wrong with it." That is the rationalizing of the devil. There are times that we have all fallen for this great lie. Even worse, the more we allow ourselves to become involved in immoral activity, the easier it is for us to actually become comfortable with our own immorality. It does not have to be this way. We are not animals compelled by natural instincts to a course of action.

We can change. We need help though. The time to choose the Lord, not just with our words but with the actions of our lives, the time to choose is now, not at some moment in the future when we think we will drastically change and embrace God. That future time might never come. Towers fall. Massacres take place. Loved ones die. We call upon God to come now and heal this sick world of ours. Are we ready for Him? Are we a fig tree that is producing fruit, or would we have to be cut down with every other part of creation that has failed to serve its purpose? Lent is the time for reconciliation. Great word, reconciliation. Much better than confession or penance. Reconciliation means setting ourselves right in our relationships with others, God first and then with His presence in His people. Lent is the time for us to recognize our own participation in the cumulative effects of evil in the world. Lent is a time for us to view our own personal tragedies as resulting from the effect of evil on the innocent. Lent is a time for us to ask for forgiveness and courage so that we might bear fruit. Lent is a time for us to face up to our own failings as we recognize that God can and will heal us and help us. It is not too late. The fig tree has been given another year. May God give us the courage to use His time and our time wisely. May we bear fruit.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Lent
Outrage and Disaster
(March 24, 2019)

Bottom line: News of outrage and disaster can sidetrack us, even inflame us to lose proper focus. Jesus brings us back: "If you do not repent you will perish as they did.". This Lent we have seen the devil's strategy: to divide and scatter. Jesus wants to bring us together, to help us achieve proper focus, to put God first. As Jesus says, to serve God alone. When we do that everything else falls into place. Last week we saw a powerful way to focus: by gratitude - thanking God for things great and small, even for the troubles that God allows as part of his providence. We saw the example of St. Patrick who Irish pirates kidnapped and sold into slavery. He discerned the hand of God even in that miserable experience and he kept his focus. This Sunday we see something that can distract us, take away our focus. I'm talking about news. Even if we don't watch 24/7 cable, we still find ourselves bombarded. Today's Gospel illustrates two types of news. First, outrage: Pilate sends soldiers to slaughter a group of Galileans who were in the Temple.

Their blood mixes with the lambs being sacrificed. Such a sacrilege would outrage a first century Jew. Similar outrages occurred periodically and eventually provoked the Jews to revolt. The result was not pretty. The Jewish revolt brought Rome's wrath. They laid siege to Jerusalem, letting the people inside starve. Finally in 70 A.D. they breached the walls and destroyed the city with its magnificent Temple. Outrage can have terrible, unintended consequences. Besides outrage a second type of news involves disasters. In this case, a tower in Jerusalem collapses killing 18 people. Just so, disasters fill our news today: an airplane crashes killing everyone on board; a storm or earthquake wreaks devastation in some part of the world. Now we should not shut ourselves off from news about disasters and outrages. We should, though, consider how Jesus responds. Instead of shaking his head or issuing a condemnation, Jesus brings it back to the personal.

"If you do not repent you will perish as they did." Don't think yourself superior to those who suffer tragedies. No, take it as call to refocus your life. You know, like those people on that Ethiopian Airline flight - or those mosques in New Zealand - our lives hang by a thread. Death could come today, before I finish the next sentence. What happened in New Zealand could happen in Monroe, at St. Mary of the Valley. Repent, refocus your mind. Like Jesus, St. Paul speaks about the tenuousness of our existence. "Whoever thinks he is standing firm should take care..." Last week we saw refocus in terms of citizenship. God wants us to be good citizens. If we can do something to help a fellow human we should do it - thoughtfully and prayerfully. At the same time, recognize our true citizenship. Set our eyes on the prize - eternity. To obtain the prize requires repentance - turning to God. C.S. Lewis expressed it this way: "Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.

Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor-that is the only way out of a 'hole.' This process of surrender-this movement full speed astern-is repentance." Next Sunday we will hear the great parable of repentance. A young man disgraces himself, his family and his father - then courageously returns. God is patient but he wants real fruit. Jesus brings that home in today's discussion of the fig tree. News of outrage and disaster can sidetrack us, inflame us so much we lose focus. Jesus brings us back: "If you do not repent you will all perish as they did." or as St. Paul says, "Whoever thinks he is standing firm should take care not to fall." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Lent

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent

This is one of those scriptural readings that it is easy to slide over. I don't know about you but if I sit down to read one of the Gospels I find myself dwelling on the interesting passages and hardly bothering about some others; the eye seems to glide over the text and on to something more interesting. Or maybe you never read the Bible at home. Maybe it's something reserved for Church. I'm sure that everyone prays at home, but an important way of praying is to use scripture. Some people pray in a favourite chair or in bed. If you do have a favourite place to pray then why not place a copy of the Bible within easy reach; or if that's too heavy, then a copy of the New Testament. It is with good reason that the Gideons go to the expense of placing a Bible in each hotel room. Keeping a Bible near you when you pray will certainly pay dividends. And, no doubt, you will find that from time to time you do look up your favourite passages: the Twenty-third Psalm, the Marriage Feast of Cana, the Crucifixion, the Supper at Emmaus and so on.

But perhaps you won't be over interested in this passage before us today and yet it does have some merit and the Church places it before us on this the third Sunday of Lent for good reasons. So let's take a look at it. There are two incidents from the local news, as it were, that the people come and tell Jesus. Or at least they tell him about the first one and he mentions the second one which had obviously recently happened and was at the front of everyone's mind. Neither of these incidents is mentioned in any of the other Gospels but there is ample evidence of similar things having taken place and so there is no reason to doubt them as historical incidents. The first is the treatment meted out by Pilate to the Galileans. We don't know what these Galileans did to incur Pilate's wrath but it is known from other sources that Pilate was an administrator who reached quickly for violent solutions. The execution of these men for rebellion was one thing; but to do so in the Temple itself and then for their blood to be mixed with the blood of the ritual sacrifices is quite another.

To a devout religious people it was a shocking and deliberate act of provocation and something Pilate was known to have done on other occasions. We can see how the question to Jesus is framed by looking at his response: Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than any other Galileans? Often a tragic event was seen as a product of sin. Even though it was Pilate who commanded this atrocity to be carried out, the natural assumption at the time was to think that the victims themselves must have been guilty and somehow deserved their fate. The same sort of thing was being said about the men in the watchtower. The people assumed that the fall of the tower was punishment for sin, not bad design or overloading or poor construction materials. Somehow those men must have been blameworthy. But Jesus cuts them off and gets to the real point as he sees it.

Forget about whether those particular Galileans were sinful; think about yourselves, it's time you repented for your own sin. And don't worry what those fellows had done who were in that tower in the city wall which collapsed. No, worry about your own actions and repent now while you've got the chance! Jesus preaches the urgent message of repentance. Don't wait till tomorrow; repent today! Tomorrow never comes, and in any case tomorrow might be too late. But then Jesus moves on in his discourse and tells the people a parable about a fig tree which seems to give a contradictory message. The master wants to cut down the fig tree because it has produced no fruit for three years. The horticulturist tells him to wait another year to give him time to dig round it and give it manure so that it will bear fruit the following year. The inference is seemingly that we who have not repented do actually have time; time for Jesus to use his influence on us, to help us to come to repentance. So, in the first half of the text we have Jesus telling the people to repent before it’s too late and then saying that actually there is time. But I suppose the two halves are not in contradiction if we realise that the fig tree is only being given another year and not an infinite amount of time.

Often, however, the fig tree is considered as a symbol of the People of Israel and this parable is perhaps meant to indicate that Jesus will work on the Jews for a little while longer before cutting them off as a lost cause and opening up wholeheartedly to the Gentiles. So that's another way of looking at it; there are always with the Gospels several angles of approach which is one of the things that makes them so interesting and fruitful for meditation. I suggest that the main message of this gospel whether it is addressed to the people as individuals or to the nation as a whole is this: the clock is ticking; repent now while you've got the chance. And you will agree that this is a most suitable message for the middle of Lent.

This is the third Sunday of Lent, and Lent is a special time devoted to repentance and what you might call, spiritual spring-cleaning. As usual we will be holding a Penitential Service on Wednesday of Holy Week in St Mary Magdalen Church at which there will be the opportunity to go to confession. There is no better way to take these words of Jesus to heart than to go to confession. There is no better time to go to confession than during Lent. There is no better opportunity you could have than to come to the Lenten Penitential Service where you can have the choice of confessors. The clock is ticking, but its tick is a friendly one. It invites us to do what in our hearts we really want to do, to turn to Christ, acknowledge our faults and failings and receive from him mercy, forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.

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