3rd Lenten Sunday C (07 Mar 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Entering Jesus’ Promise
The bizarre events, on which Jesus was asked to comment in our gospel selection, may distract us rather than invite us to enter Lent more freely and with more expansive, supple hearts. Yet we know of other towers, which fell with greater loss of life than eighteen. Their collapse served as a warning; and that was precisely prophet Jesus’ message to his contemporaries, a warning.
Jesus’ warning was by no means a call to arms but to self-examination. Jesus reminded his contemporaries—as well as us—that the time given us to live includes considering our hearts, considering what motivates our choices and seeking to discern what hinders us from loving God and others and seeking to discern what helps us to love God and others more freely.
That discerning describes to repent. Scripture has a very personal and active connotation for repent: to change one’s mind. That active and personal connotation includes feeling regret; indeed, feeling regretful or unsettled may move me to change the way I consider things. At other times—maybe more times—people are unaware how they feel or how their action or inaction causes others to feel. When I reflect on what I have done, how I and another may have come to feel regretful or unsettled, then I may change: my mind; my heart; and my future actions.
To repent, with all of its meanings—feeling remorse or unsettled; changing one’s attitude and ways of choosing and acting—includes that I feel my need for help. This is nothing new for disciples and friends of Jesus. Many in the church at Corinth did not feel any need for help. St. Paul addressed them in the selection we heard from his letter to the Corinthians.
Many of them felt that baptism and the eucharist—spiritual food and spiritual drink—made an end to their human limitations. Thinking wrongly that they had no limits, they wrongly concluded that they perfectly enjoyed the risen life Jesus promised them and all who follow him. They thought they had no need to repent.
We may scoff at them. St. Paul did not. Using the example of Moses and the example of the exodus cloud and of the sea, St. Paul reminded them that humans, even followers of Jesus, are fragile. We find our stability in the one rock, our Messiah Jesus. Lent reminds us we are reluctant and slow to acknowledge our needs for stability and the renewal of our minds, hearts and attitudes and to bring our needs to Jesus. Bringing our needs to Jesus begins to help us renew ourselves in him.
People then and many today allow only tragedy to move them to consider their lives. They even thought as do many today that tragedy involved sin! Jesus’ point to his contemporaries—a conversation we don’t take to heart often enough—is that no one can argue from tragedy to sin. “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!
We can’t figure out tragedies or understand them completely to satisfy ourselves or others. Instead, our lives are our time to take on the attitude of Moses and recognize God’s dignity dwells in all created things and people. Our lives are our time to take on the attitude of Jesus1 and be more alert to his presence and action on behalf of all and his invitation of us to join him to be his presence, his heart, his hands, his feet, his voice and his compassion.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow the Trinity to gaze on you with love2 and renew your mind, heart and attitude. Ask Mary to present you to Jesus. Simply be in Jesus’ presence, holding a crucifix or the icon of Jesus’ Sacred Heart parishioners have in our homes, to help you. Ask for the grace to respond to Jesus inviting you to be his presence, his heart, his hands, his feet, his voice and his compassion. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Its phrase, thy will be done, does not point to a distant God; rather saying it helps us to unite ourselves with God’s desires for us, all people and all creation.
- See Philippians 2.3-5; verse 5 summarizes verses 3 and 4. It is the Messiah Jesus, the risen Lord, who makes our Christian (=Messianic) action possible.
- St. Ignatius invites retreatants to see with the loving vision of the Trinity, deciding in their eternity that the Second Person ought to become human in order to save the human race. (Spiritual Exercises, 102.)