For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022816-third-sunday-lent.cfm
“What did I do to deserve this?” People often ask this question when something bad happens to them. While on one level we know there is not a direct correlation between our behavior and bad things happening to us, on another level I suspect all of us occasionally wonder if --- when something bad happens to us --- we aren’t being punished for something. In the first part of our Gospel today Jesus dealt with this issue very directly. He mentioned two specific instances where bad things happened to people. He then asked whether people thought these things happened because the individuals to whom they happened were greater sinners or were more guilty than others. His response was clear. “By no means!” This would have caught his hearers by surprise because at that time it was thought that people experienced bad things because they had done something bad. Jesus is clear, though, that bad things don’t happen to people because they’ve done something bad. Bad things just happen.
The second half of our Gospel today is a brief parable about a fig tree that has not born fruit in three years. The owner of the orchard instructs the gardener to cut it down. The gardener, though, interceded, and suggested that he cultivate the ground and fertilize it to see if the fig tree might bear fruit. This parable speaks to us of God’s enormous patience with us, even when we don’t produce fruit. It serves as a nice counterpoint to the first half of the Gospel where people thought punishment for wrongdoing was swift and sure.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Exodus. It is the story of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush and his being sent by God to the Israelites. God also told Moses the name by which he is being sent: “I am who am.”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In a none to subtle way, it reminds us not to presume on God’s patience. “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- What would you say to someone who experienced something bad and thought they were being punished for something they had done?
- God gave Moses a name by which Moses could call on him. Is there a name by which you call on God?
- Have you ever presumed on God’s patience?