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Third Sunday of Lent
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to encounter your merciful heart today. In this Gospel, you urge me to come with a repentant attitude, so I begin this prayer today by simply saying I’m sorry. I am sorry for not being there with you when I should have, for my failure to love you, both in prayer and in loving others. I ask you, Lord, for the grace to see myself as I really am and to be open to the transformation you want to carry out in my life.
- Who Is More Guilty?: Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking about others as if we are their morality judge. We notice someone doing something that we would be scandalized to find ourselves doing, we let it annoy us, and then we offer the prayer of the Pharisee, “Thank you God that I am not like that person” (Luke 18:11). In this Gospel, Jesus corrected those who were thinking this way. We must invite him to correct us as well. May we look at his heart, and learn how to be humble and compassionate toward others who suffer or are trapped in sin.
- If You Do Not Repent: In this passage, Jesus underlined the need for each of us to repent from our sin. By examining our conscience daily in prayer and availing ourselves of frequent confession, we learn to become more aware of our sins and how they hurt Jesus. Some of us, having long ago left serious, habitual sin in the past, can forget the need to have this healthy attitude of repentance even from small sins. St. Mary Magdalene, St. Augustine of Hippo, and others show us how to live an exemplary life “weeping for our sins.” Repentance is sorrow for sin that is grounded in love, which leads to greater love for God and others.
- The God of Second Chances: At the core of the message of the Gospel about sin and repentance is the desire that God has to give people second chances. Sometimes the sacrament of Reconciliation is called “the sacrament of second chances.” If we consider ourselves fig trees in danger of perishing, we can look with fresh eyes at the sacrament of Reconciliation, where we encounter the God of mercy who knows all of our weaknesses and says, “I don’t give up; give her another chance.” Alternatively, if we consider ourselves the gardener in this parable, we see by his example that, as Christ’s missionaries, we need zeal for souls.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I praise you for what you’ve done in my life. I thank you for being the merciful and gentle gardener who doesn’t give up on me. You have shown kindness and mercy to me repeatedly and continue to be patient with me. And even when I have the grace to be faithful, I know it is because of your goodness. Thank you, Lord.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray an act of contrition with all my heart.
For Further Reflection: St. Therese of Lisieux speaks on mercy in Chapter 1 of her Autobiography.
Fr. Adam Zettel, LC, was ordained in 2017 and worked for three years as a high school chaplain in Dallas, Texas. Now he resides in Oakville, Ontario, serving youth and young adults.