For this and next Sunday there are options for two sets of
readings. If a parish has catechumens and people preparing for full
communion at the Easter Vigil, the parish may choose to use the
readings from the A Cycle. We have posted reflections from the A
cycle for the Fourth Sunday of Lent on our webpage.
First Impressions - The 4th Sunday of LENT (A)
I have podcasts and apps on my phone. Throughout the day banners
drop-down with news updates about: the Central American refugees’
progress through Mexico; the latest events from the White House; the
awful tornado in Alabama; the economic and political crisis in
Venezuela; Prime Minister Trudeau’s political woes in Canada, etc.
With modern technology and social media I imagine all over the
world people are getting similar updates – almost immediately.
Together we learn of tragedies, conflicts, weather, soccer and
baseball scores. News these days travels fast, very fast.
In Jesus’ time news traveled much slower. No Internet. No
newspaper. Just word of mouth. Today’s gospel tells us what people
were talking about. Like our own times, the top news of the day were
about tragedies. Bad news travels fast in any age. Two tragedies,
with two different causes. People told Jesus about the tyrant
Pilate’s slaughter of Galileans (Jesus was a Galilean). Pilate
killed them in the Temple, where they had come to offer animal
sacrifices. The blood of the victims, mixed with the blood of their
own sacrifices. Imagine the outrage, humiliation and impotency of
the Jewish people over what happened to those victims. In, of all
places, the sacred Temple! Jesus’ contemporaries had a specific
human to blame for this first piece of bad news – Pilate – one more
tyrant coming down hard on the backs of an enslaved people.
What would people say about the second piece of bad news? A tower
collapsed in Siloam and killed 18 people. Similar catastrophes
continue to happen in our own time. Some are the results of natural
forces (like the recent tornado in Alabama); others are caused by
faulty construction – sometimes because of attempts to cut the costs
of construction. In Jesus’ time, maybe for some today, people would
have said: "God was punishing those people." It is not uncommon when
pain, tragedy, or sickness happen that people ask: "What did I do
that God is punishing me so?"
If we conclude that God is punishing us when bad things happen,
then that lets other people off the hook who might conclude: "I must
be doing something right in God’s eyes, look how blessed I am. I
have good health, good job, a together family, good schooling etc."
It is appropriate to appreciate and be thankful for the good things
in our lives. But today’s gospel offers us a caution. Our prosperity
and well-being have nothing to do with our virtue, nor are they a
reward for good behavior.
Jesus pushes aside such presumptuous conclusions and challenges
his hearers, who might be feeling content and comfortable, to
examine their own lives and make changes when and where necessary.
What an appropriate gospel for Lent!
Thus, the parable of the fig tree. It’s not bearing fruit, but
the gardener convinces the owner to give it another year, under the
gardener’s extra care. "Sir, leave it for this year also and I shall
cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it. It may bear fruit
in the future. If not cut it down." It is a tale of reprieve; there
is time to do something. But that comes with a caution that can stir
us to do what needs to be done – before it is too late.
The parable might remind us of what we already know: life is
short. We certainly know enough people who have died suddenly. That
should wake us up. It could prompt us to: work on that tattered
relationship; attend to our marriage; spend more time with the kids;
deal with that bad habit; make that phone call; join our parish
community and its outreach to the poor – before it is too late.
The parable about the barren fig tree is a grace. It is a wake up
call to tell us it is a good time to make the changes we have been
putting off and know we must do. Because, the parable is quite
clear... there is a time limit. I work best when I have a deadline.
I get to the job at hand; concentrate my best efforts and work
diligently. Hear the voice of the gardener, "If it doesn’t bear
fruit you can cut it down."
We are being given time – a graced time. We have space to grow;
mature spiritually; reshape our lives; serve the Lord; remove the
obstacles, big or small, between us and God; between us and others.
There is a deadline. But we don’t have to get our act together on
our own. The parable is about grace. We are "cultivated" by a loving
Gardener. If we desire to change we have help. Jesus is the Gardener
who will nurture in us fruits of conversion and faithful
If we open our eyes and look closely we might see the gracious
hand of God reaching out to us: through friends and family; in the
breaks in our daily routine; during a quiet moment and even in the
rush and in the surprises. God’s gracious hand is there guiding and
strengthening us through: the Scriptures, showing us the way and
helping us to choose it and in the resurrected life of Jesus present
to us today on the altar. He is the Gardener who nourishes us and
gives himself as food and drink so that we can use the time we have
to change and bear fruit – not just for ourselves, – but for those
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
In this passage, Paul invites us to celebrate the way in which
God has reconciled all things to himself in Christ so that we can
become a new creation in Christ. How wonderfully appropriate to this
Sunday of rejoicing (Laetare Sunday). Also known as Rose
Sunday, we are given a glimpse at the wonderful new beginnings that
come with Easter resurrection.
In the Second Reading, where this passage is found, the Greek
word katallasso means "to reconcile" or "to decisively
change." We are the ones called to reconcile and change what makes
us less Christ-like. How can we be ambassadors for Christ if our
lives do not reflect the actions of Jesus? This is especially true
in our response, or lack of response, to the oppressed, the poor,
the outcasts, and the other.
The Catholic faith is both vertical in our relationship with God
AND horizontal in our relationships with our fellow human beings and
our living earth. Devotion to God is incomplete without the
horizontal awareness that God is present in every aspect of God’s
creation. We can see this in the example that Pope Francis offers
(1/21/18): "Jesus walks through the city with his disciples and
begins to see, to hear, to notice those who have given up in the
face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption. He
begins to bring to light many situations that had killed the hope of
his people and to awaken a new hope. He calls his disciples and
invites them to set out with him. He calls them to walk through to
the city, but at a different pace; he teaches them to notice what
they had previously overlooked, and he points out new and pressing
needs. Repent, he tells them. The Kingdom of Heaven means finding in
Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives of his people. He gets
involved and involves others not to be afraid to make of our history
a history of salvation" (cf. Mk 1:15, 21). This is what it means to
act as an ambassador for Christ.
What injustice have you ignored in our own greater community?
Need some places to put your energy for the work of Christ on earth?
Check out the many ministries we have outside the walls of our
parish on our website: