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Pastor's Letter 20220320 - 20 March 22 - The Ongoing Need for Reform

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March 20th, 2022

Third Sunday of Lent


Parable of the barren fig tree

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  

“The Need for Ongoing Reform 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

In our First Reading (Exodus 3:1-15,) we hear of Moses’ first encounter with God, in the “Burning Bush.”  Having fled Egypt under a cloud of distrust, he was called by God while tending the flocks of his father-in-law.  In the phenomenon of the flaming bush, not consumed by fire, the Divine Presence was symbolically announced.  Moses is directed to remove his shoes, so as not to defile the “holy ground,” on which he stood—an ancient oriental mark of respect.  Similarly, his reticence to “look upon the face of God,” was a recurring motif in the Old Testament, for fear that it would mean instant death.  God is beyond definition either by metaphysicists or mythmakers—cannot be entirely known by humans—and tells Moses to refer to Him as “I Am.”  God would continue to become better known—perhaps, more “familiar” to us—as the human story unfolded and evolved.     


Today’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 10: 1-12,)shows that Paul advised Christians to reflect upon their past spiritual heritage so as to learn from the mistakes of their forebears in the faith.  Taking God and salvation for granted, some in the community were guilty of naïve presumptiveness, thinking that the sacraments were guarantees of redemption.  It may have resulted from a perversion of Paul’s teaching of “justification by faith.”  We must glean from this that our own complacency with sacramental grace cannot substitute for cooperative efforts at good living and loving service.  


In our Gospel Reading, today, Luke gives us an account of Pilate’s heinous treatment of some Galileans, which many, at the time, regarded as punishment for their sin (Luke 13:1-9.)  In an effort to challenge everyone to reform, Jesus counseled that the light of life was as easily snuffed out for a good person as for an evil one—therefore showing that “absence of tragedy” should not be taken to mean approval for one’s life.  God’s mercy gives everyone many chances to repent of their sins—second chances, as it were—for a new beginning.  Using the lesson of the barren fig tree (a symbol for Israel,) our Blessed Lord shows us, when we accept another chance for righteous living, we can attain to eternal life.  However, the lifetime process of conversion must be a continual effort for us to become more and more saintly.  

Second Chances

In the normal course of events, it takes three years for a fig tree to reach maturity.  If, by then, it is not fruiting, there is little likelihood it will be productive at all.  Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree demonstrates how, even in the best of circumstances, and with the most ardent care, some of us, like the fig tree, will not realize lives of holy potential.  But, in His fashion, Christ shows how the mercy of God is unending for those who repent of their misdeeds, and strive for virtue.  

This Gospel is called the “Gospel of the second chance,” for good reason.  We are not told what happened to the fig tree in question, but it doesn’t matter.  Jesus had made His point:  Just as the gardener was patient with the fig tree, so God is patient with us, sinners.  The history of the Church is full of examples of such “barren trees,” that in time became “fruitful”—in other words, sinners, who repented and became saints.  

Moses, who is at the center of our reading from Exodus, is a good example.  He had a fiery temper, we are told, and, although raised in the house of Pharoah, given an elite education and favored status, he had killed another man, taking the law into his own hands.  But there was good in him.  He was that rare being—the kind of man who couldn’t stand idly by when he saw an injustice or crime happening.  Because of this quality, God chose him to lead His people from slavery to freedom. 

Another example is that of Albert Einstein, who was arguably the greatest mind of the 20th century.  He didn’t learn to speak until he was two years old!  His parents, notably worried, consulted a doctor.  They didn’t judge him too soon, and even though not aware of his future greatness, allowed him to develop slowly.  

What such people need is someone to believe in them—and have patience with them.  Otherwise, much potential talent could remain unrealized.  We tend to be harsh with others until we need a second chance, ourselves.  It’s important to extend to them the kind of patience and leniency we would like for ourselves.  

If we were “in charge,” we would probably be much quicker than Jesus to condemn those committing sins, especially sins that hurt us directly.  How many times have we wished that a particularly unpleasant person would receive his or her due?  However, if we treat others according to the demands of retribution, we would have to submit ourselves to the same form of justice—not a pleasant prospect!  Sinners ourselves, we also would stand condemned.  

We can be thankful that God doesn’t work like that. While He knows we deserve condemnation, He withholds judgment in the hope that we will accept His call.  God is not the author of retribution and misfortune, and does not rejoice in the destruction of the wicked—but offers us goodness and life, if only we will accept it.  

Our Scripture Readings today all make it clear that there is such a thing as a “last chance.”  If people refuse one opportunity after another, the day finally comes, not when God has shunned them, but when they have, by deliberate choice, shut themselves out.  Surely, none of us would want to be “barren,” when we might be fruitful.”  In the end, we have yet another opportunity to accept God’s grace, and be welcomed into His fold.

Holy Ground  

All of the earth that God gave us is “holy ground,” and deserves to be treated with respect.  But the holiest “ground” of all is that within each of us.

First of all, the body is holy—it is the work of God.  That is reason enough for respecting it and caring for it. Paul gives us a further reason for respecting the body:  “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (See 1 Corinthians 6:19.)  

The mind is holy ground.   Many people fill their minds every day with all kinds of trivial things, garnered from social media, television, and so on.  Henry David Thoreau put it this way: “How willing people are to lumber their minds with rubbish—to permit idle rumors and trivial incidents to intrude on ground, which should be sacred to thought.  Shall the mind be a public arena, or shall it be a quarter of heaven itself?”  We should strive to follow Paul’s advice and fill our minds with “everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, everything that can be thought virtuous and worthy of praise” (See Philemon 4:8.)  

But the holiest ground of all is the human “heart”  (one’s state of being, or personality—the manner in which we deal with others.)    In our times there is a huge preoccupation with outer cleanliness.  But this leads to a danger of neglect for inner cleanliness, or cleanness of heart.  It’s from the “heart” that all our thoughts, words and deeds flow, like water from a hidden spring. If the spring is clean, then all that flows from it will be clean, as well.  May we strive to keep our “hearts” clean and pure, therefore, avoiding the harmful accumulation of the trivial and wasteful. 

Something for Thee.docx

  May God Richly Bless You!


To view a recording of today's Holy Mass, click here: 


Edited by Father Michael
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