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February 28, 2016 - Third Sunday of Lent - Deacon Ron

Homily Summary for the Third Sunday of Lent

Deacon Landry

 

It never ceases to amaze me how relevant and timely Sacred Scripture is. In today's gospel, we witness people attempting to grapple with the untimely death of innocent people. And we are reminded of the ubiquitous question that always haunts events such as these: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" There has never been a satisfying answer to this, nor is Jesus' purpose in today's narrative an attempt to provide one. In his time and culture calamity was explained as the consequence of sin, punishment from God. However, Jesus declares unequivocally, "By no means!"

As his audience attempts to process such a radical statement, they are struck by an equally disturbing pronouncement: "But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!" What are we to make of this? Our Saviour is using these tragedies as an opportunity to emphasize just how fragile and unpredictable life is. It creates a sense of urgency. And the death Jesus is warning us of is the death of our soul, should we not repent. Misfortune—and Lent—can each serve as wake-up calls to raise our alert status. Rather than pledge to repent and improve our spiritual life someday, we are made to focus on the critical importance to do so now.

And while honest introspection may be unsettling, even disturbing, and the disciplines required to show genuine repentance and improvement might be challenging, Lent provides an excellent catalyst to ramp up to a heightened level of self-awareness and urgency without the experience of tragedy. In today's gospel, Our Savior is admonishing us to guard against complacency. We must not be lulled into thinking that we are doing just fine and there is no need for improvement. If that were the case, Jesus would not have preached this gospel, and you and I wouldn't be hearing this message some two thousand years later.

We need to reflect on what it is to repent. It should not be about guilt and looking at ourselves in a negative light. Rather, it should be about introspection and how we can become even better. In other words, as Christians we must endeavor to constantly strive to become more like our namesake. In the sublime words of St. John: "He must increase; I must decrease." To deny a need to repent is to say we are just like Jesus Christ. There is not a single canonized saint who would dare even imply such a thing.

The message of the parable is a positive one filled with hope and the love and mercy of God. And one you and I would do well to heed. The season of Lent is the second chance you and I are given, just like the unfruitful fig tree. And we must never assume that since we have not been "given the ax" that we are necessarily bearing fruit. The focus in our Savior's message is not simply on the need to repent, but on the urgency to do so immediately. Life is what happens while we're busy making plans.

 "Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

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