March 3, 2013 — Third Sunday of Lent
It would seem appropriate during Lent that Holy Scripture would issue some warnings to us. In effect, that is what occurs throughout the readings for this Third Sunday of Lent. Each reading contains a caution to us, or a strong suggestion.
The first reading from the Book of Exodus, is a story with which most of us are very familiar — Moses and the Burning Bush. There are, however, some subtleties within the reading that we may miss. Curiosity draws Moses to the bush. No doubt it is with some amazement that he hears the Voice of God emanating from the bush. God has chosen him to rescue His people and to lead them to that legendary “land of milk and honey.” But Moses hesitates, indicating both reluctance and uncertainty. This is a foreshadowing of the doubts and irreverence that will be shown later by the Israelites. It is as if God is making it clear to Moses — do this, but take care, and take care for I am and will always be.
St. Paul does not mince words in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul makes reference to the difficulties experienced by the Israelites. He states that “God was not pleased with most of them.” To make it absolutely clear, Paul continues that “These things happened as examples for us.” In Paul’s last statement in this scriptural passage he issues a warning that is so applicable to us for Lent — “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”
Although it may not be completely clear to the reader and the hearer of the Word, the parable reported in Luke’s Gospel addresses exactly the same issue that Paul wrote about. It is done, nevertheless, in the Lord’s inimitable style. Jesus has been teaching and imploring the crowd. In terms of historical context it is near the end of His ministry — His Crucifixion is fast approaching. The Lord is particularly disturbed by the way those who listen to Him are ignorant of the significance of His presence, the magnitude of this historical time.
Simply put, many scholars agree that we are that fig tree. The fig tree looks healthy; it appears to be complete; however, it produces no fruit. Jesus’ warning to us is particularly crucial during our Lenten appreciations — it is not the appearance of holiness — through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — which is important. It is the fruits of our penitence that is important. If we, like the barren fig tree, merely play and look the part, we are falling short if we do not truly build on faith and holiness which will culminate during Holy Week and the Easter celebration.
Living as a Christian steward is a response to Jesus’ call to discipleship and holiness. The steward nonetheless must be on constant watch — constant preparation. Stewardship, like our foundations for Easter throughout Lent, is an ongoing journey — a daily exercise and challenge. We, too, must take care “not to fall.”