Homily for Third Sunday in Lent, Year C
The first Reading from the Book of Exodus, (Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15), presented us with the call of Moses as a prophet. The basic ministry of a prophet is to call the people of God to repentance. Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law at Horeb where he had an experience that would change his life forever. He noticed a bush nearby in flames and yet the grasses and the leaves were not being consumed, as he drew nearer to have a closer look at this extra-ordinary phenomenon, God called him and revealed himself to him as the Eternal Presence, ‘I am who I am’, and sent him on a mission to free the people of Israel from their bondage in Egypt.
Just as Moses lead the people of Israel from slavery to freedom, repentance leads us to freedom. I recall a newly Anglican convert to Catholicism sharing her experience of her first Reconciliation in the Catholic Church. She recalled that initially she was hesitant about revealing her sins to the priest, but after she opened her heart and confessed her sins and received absolution, she felt lighter, as if a huge burden had been lifted off her shoulders. She added that since then, she had not thought twice about availing herself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In the Gospel, (Lk 13:1-9), Jesus was informed about the ordinary citizens of Jerusalem who went to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem but did not come out alive because Pilate’s soldiers killed them as they were forcefully usurping the Temple’s offerings. In contemporary time, we recall the 2019 Easter bombing in Sri Lanka which killed 270 people, and the various bombing of churches by Islamic extremists in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Jesus on his own recalled the collapse of the tower at Siloam that caused the death of 18 people. Similarly, our minds are turned to many natural disasters which have resulted in the loss of property and human lives. At present, Queensland and New South Wales are experiencing flooding. In the city of Lismore in New South Wales, roads have been turned to rivers and houses into pools.
In the Old Testament, calamity was judged as a consequence of sin, hence, the disciples of Jesus were curious to know if the man who was born blind in the Gospel of John was a consequent of the parents’ sin or a personal sin. (Jn 9:1-3).
Jesus in responding to the sad news of the innocent victims of Pilates wickedness and the victims of the collapse of the tower at Siloam made it abundantly clear that the victims did not lose their lives because they were the worst sinners in Jerusalem. Evil exists and at times one may bear the brunt of an occurrence one had not initiated. Human greed may instigate a chain reaction which may have catastrophic consequences. Take for instance a builder who cuts corners by using a sub-standard material to build a house, this may result in the house collapsing in the future and maiming people. Another example would be a greedy developer who builds an estate on flood-prone lands. We know that that estate is a disaster waiting to implode.
Each person has moments of grace. The burning bush experience was a moment of grace for Moses. We too must latch on to our moments of grace as Moses did. Though the killing of the worshippers in Jerusalem and the victims of the collapse of the Tower in Siloam were tragedies because in these incidences people lost loved ones – a dad, or mum, or son or daughter on so on. However, Jesus in his ministry as a prophet, used them as occasions of grace for the living. A reminder that our life on earth is finite, thus one day our earthly dwelling will come to an end. What is my relationship with God at this moment? Am I making genuine efforts to be faithful to my baptismal calling? When we participate in a funeral, we are not only farewelling the deceased, but it is also a moment of grace for us to amend our ways and come closer to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Let us not be recalcitrant like the Jews on their way to the promised land. Though the Lord performed multiple miracles on their behalf, however, the hearts of some of them remained hardened, (Second Reading), leading to the journey taking them a longer time than it should have taken, and some of them losing their lives in the desert.
May our Lenten observances not be in vain, but rather lead us to true conversion of heart. Amen.
Fr. C. Okeke CSSp