3rd Sunday of Lent, 2/28/2016
Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15; Ps 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11; 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9
With next Sunday’s readings we continue the trend of the Old Testament reading recounting one of the great events of our collective salvation history. This week we hear the story of an angel of the Lord appearing to Moses from a burning bush that is miraculously not consumed by the fire. Moses was tending his father-in-law Jethro’s flock while on Mount Horeb, also known as the mountain of God. With Moses interest piqued, he moved closer to investigate, at which point the LORD God told him to come no closer and to remove his shoes because the ground he was standing on was sacred.
God then identified God’s self as the God of Moses’ forefathers, that is, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. The ancients believed if one saw on angel, a manifestation of God or God’s own self, that one would be instantly struck dead, so Moses hid his face. The LORD went on to announce that he had seen the suffering of his captive people who were enslaved in Egypt and intended to bring them out of slavery into a good and spacious land, “flowing with milk and honey.” Moses then asked a very courageous question of God. It was thought that knowing someone’s name gave a person some amount of knowledge and power over that person by virtue of knowing his or her name. So Moses boldly asked God’s name to share with the Israelites. God revealed God’s name as “I am who am.” “Yhwh” is actually the third person singular of the Hebrew verb “I am.” Let us seek out “the One who creates or causes things to exist,” as did our forefather, Moses.
(The reading discussed is from the “C” Cycle readings. Your parish might use the “A” Cycle readings, the woman at the well, if there are Catechumens to be baptized at Easter). This Gospel starts out seemingly innocuous enough. The rumor mill reports atrocities perpetrated by Pilate in Galilee. But under the surface, it is again a trap for Jesus. If he sides with Pilate, he’s betrayed the local people. If he sides with the locals, he would probably be reported to the Roman authorities. So Jesus turned his answer into a moral lesson about personal repentance, while adding another story recounting a tragedy about eighteen folks who were killed in the accidental collapse of tower at one of the eastern gates into the city of Jerusalem with the same moral lesson.
He then told a parable. An orchard or a vineyard in Scripture was almost always representative of the Jewish people. After an initial period of time of several years, a Palestinian fig tree bore fruit about ten out of twelve months, so expecting fruit was not unusual. This tree was three years beyond that initial period. The fruitless tree probably represented the leaders of the people who were stealing water, nutrients and space from other trees in the orchard, while giving back nothing. Jesus had the gardener telling that he would “fertilize” it. Most translations of scripture speak of spreading manure on it to fertilize. The leaders need to be doused in manure! The peasants no doubt roared at that point. But the moral is the same as we continue along in Lent. We must pay attention to personal repentance and be fruitful with our lives, even when we have to slog through a little manure now and then.